2009 FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES MANUAL
CHAPTER 4 - PART A - CRIMINAL HISTORY
§4A1.2. Definitions and Instructions for Computing Criminal History
(a) Prior Sentence
(1) The term "prior sentence" means any sentence previously imposed upon adjudication of guilt, whether by guilty plea, trial, or plea of nolo contendere, for conduct not part of the instant offense.
(2) If the defendant has multiple prior sentences, determine whether those sentences are counted separately or as a single sentence. Prior sentences always are counted separately if the sentences were imposed for offenses that were separated by an intervening arrest (i.e., the defendant is arrested for the first offense prior to committing the second offense). If there is no intervening arrest, prior sentences are counted separately unless (A) the sentences resulted from offenses contained in the same charging instrument; or (B) the sentences were imposed on the same day. Count any prior sentence covered by (A) or (B) as a single sentence. See also §4A1.1(f).
For purposes of applying §4A1.1(a), (b), and (c), if prior sentences are counted as a single sentence, use the longest sentence of imprisonment if concurrent sentences were imposed. If consecutive sentences were imposed, use the aggregate sentence of imprisonment.
(3) A conviction for which the imposition or execution of sentence was totally suspended or stayed shall be counted as a prior sentence under §4A1.1(c).
(4) Where a defendant has been convicted of an offense, but not yet sentenced, such conviction shall be counted as if it constituted a prior sentence under §4A1.1(c) if a sentence resulting from that conviction otherwise would be countable. In the case of a conviction for an offense set forth in §4A1.2(c)(1), apply this provision only where the sentence for such offense would be countable regardless of type or length.
"Convicted of an offense," for the purposes of this provision, means that the guilt of the defendant has been established, whether by guilty plea, trial, or plea of nolo contendere.
(b) Sentence of Imprisonment Defined
(1) The term "sentence of imprisonment" means a sentence of incarceration and refers to the maximum sentence imposed.
(2) If part of a sentence of imprisonment was suspended, "sentence of imprisonment" refers only to the portion that was not suspended.
(c) Sentences Counted and Excluded
Sentences for all felony offenses are counted. Sentences for misdemeanor and petty offenses are counted, except as follows:
(1) Sentences for the following prior offenses and offenses similar to them, by whatever name they are known, are counted only if (A) the sentence was a term of probation of more than one year or a term of imprisonment of at least thirty days, or (B) the prior offense was similar to an instant offense:
Careless or reckless driving
Contempt of court
Disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace
Driving without a license or with a revoked or suspended license
False information to a police officer
Hindering or failure to obey a police officer
Insufficient funds check
Leaving the scene of an accident
(2) Sentences for the following prior offenses and offenses similar to them, by whatever name they are known, are never counted:
Fish and game violations
Juvenile status offenses and truancy
Local ordinance violations (except those violations that are also violations under state criminal law)
Minor traffic infractions (e.g., speeding)
(d) Offenses Committed Prior to Age Eighteen
(1) If the defendant was convicted as an adult and received a sentence of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month, add 3 points under §4A1.1(a) for each such sentence.
(2) In any other case,
(A) add 2 points under §4A1.1(b) for each adult or juvenile sentence to confinement of at least sixty days if the defendant was released from such confinement within five years of his commencement of the instant offense;
(B) add 1 point under §4A1.1(c) for each adult or juvenile sentence imposed within five years of the defendant’s commencement of the instant offense not covered in (A).
(e) Applicable Time Period
(1) Any prior sentence of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month that was imposed within fifteen years of the defendant’s commencement of the instant offense is counted. Also count any prior sentence of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month, whenever imposed, that resulted in the defendant being incarcerated during any part of such fifteen-year period.
(2) Any other prior sentence that was imposed within ten years of the defendant’s commencement of the instant offense is counted.
(3) Any prior sentence not within the time periods specified above is not counted.
(4) The applicable time period for certain sentences resulting from offenses committed prior to age eighteen is governed by §4A1.2(d)(2).
(f) Diversionary Dispositions
Diversion from the judicial process without a finding of guilt (e.g., deferred prosecution) is not counted. A diversionary disposition resulting from a finding or admission of guilt, or a plea of nolo contendere, in a judicial proceeding is counted as a sentence under §4A1.1(c) even if a conviction is not formally entered, except that diversion from juvenile court is not counted.
(g) Military Sentences
Sentences resulting from military offenses are counted if imposed by a general or special court martial. Sentences imposed by a summary court martial or Article 15 proceeding are not counted.
(h) Foreign Sentences
Sentences resulting from foreign convictions are not counted, but may be considered under §4A1.3 (Adequacy of Criminal History Category).
(i) Tribal Court Sentences
Sentences resulting from tribal court convictions are not counted, but may be considered under §4A1.3 (Adequacy of Criminal History Category).
(j) Expunged Convictions
Sentences for expunged convictions are not counted, but may be considered under §4A1.3 (Adequacy of Criminal History Category).
(k) Revocations of Probation, Parole, Mandatory Release, or Supervised Release
(1) In the case of a prior revocation of probation, parole, supervised release, special parole, or mandatory release, add the original term of imprisonment to any term of imprisonment imposed upon revocation. The resulting total is used to compute the criminal history points for §4A1.1(a), (b), or (c), as applicable.
(2) (A) Revocation of probation, parole, supervised release, special parole, or mandatory release may affect the points for §4A1.1(e) in respect to the recency of last release from confinement.
(B) Revocation of probation, parole, supervised release, special parole, or mandatory release may affect the time period under which certain sentences are counted as provided in §4A1.2(d)(2) and (e). For the purposes of determining the applicable time period, use the following: (i) in the case of an adult term of imprisonment totaling more than one year and one month, the date of last release from incarceration on such sentence (see §4A1.2(e)(1)); (ii) in the case of any other confinement sentence for an offense committed prior to the defendant’s eighteenth birthday, the date of the defendant’s last release from confinement on such sentence (see §4A1.2(d)(2)(A)); and (iii) in any other case, the date of the original sentence (see §4A1.2(d)(2)(B) and (e)(2)).
(l) Sentences on Appeal
Prior sentences under appeal are counted except as expressly provided below. In the case of a prior sentence, the execution of which has been stayed pending appeal, §4A1.1(a), (b), (c), (d), and (f) shall apply as if the execution of such sentence had not been stayed; §4A1.1(e) shall not apply.
(m) Effect of a Violation Warrant
For the purposes of §4A1.1(d), a defendant who commits the instant offense while a violation warrant from a prior sentence is outstanding (e.g., a probation, parole, or supervised release violation warrant) shall be deemed to be under a criminal justice sentence if that sentence is otherwise countable, even if that sentence would have expired absent such warrant.
(n) Failure to Report for Service of Sentence of Imprisonment
For the purposes of §4A1.1(d) and (e), failure to report for service of a sentence of imprisonment shall be treated as an escape from such sentence.
(o) Felony Offense
For the purposes of §4A1.2(c), a "felony offense" means any federal, state, or local offense punishable by death or a term of imprisonment exceeding one year, regardless of the actual sentence imposed.
(p) Crime of Violence Defined
For the purposes of §4A1.1(f), the definition of "crime of violence" is that set forth in §4B1.2(a).
1. Prior Sentence.—"Prior sentence" means a sentence imposed prior to sentencing on the instant offense, other than a sentence for conduct that is part of the instant offense. See §4A1.2(a). A sentence imposed after the defendant’s commencement of the instant offense, but prior to sentencing on the instant offense, is a prior sentence if it was for conduct other than conduct that was part of the instant offense. Conduct that is part of the instant offense means conduct that is relevant conduct to the instant offense under the provisions of §1B1.3 (Relevant Conduct).
Under §4A1.2(a)(4), a conviction for which the defendant has not yet been sentenced is treated as if it were a prior sentence under §4A1.1(c) if a sentence resulting from such conviction otherwise would have been counted. In the case of an offense set forth in §4A1.2(c)(1) (which lists certain misdemeanor and petty offenses), a conviction for which the defendant has not yet been sentenced is treated as if it were a prior sentence under §4A1.2(a)(4) only where the offense is similar to the instant offense (because sentences for other offenses set forth in §4A1.2(c)(1) are counted only if they are of a specified type and length).
2. Sentence of Imprisonment.—To qualify as a sentence of imprisonment, the defendant must have actually served a period of imprisonment on such sentence (or, if the defendant escaped, would have served time). See §4A1.2(a)(3) and (b)(2). For the purposes of applying §4A1.1(a), (b), or (c), the length of a sentence of imprisonment is the stated maximum (e.g., in the case of a determinate sentence of five years, the stated maximum is five years; in the case of an indeterminate sentence of one to five years, the stated maximum is five years; in the case of an indeterminate sentence for a term not to exceed five years, the stated maximum is five years; in the case of an indeterminate sentence for a term not to exceed the defendant’s twenty-first birthday, the stated maximum is the amount of time in pre-trial detention plus the amount of time between the date of sentence and the defendant’s twenty-first birthday). That is, criminal history points are based on the sentence pronounced, not the length of time actually served. See §4A1.2(b)(1) and (2). A sentence of probation is to be treated as a sentence under §4A1.1(c) unless a condition of probation requiring imprisonment of at least sixty days was imposed.
3. Upward Departure Provision.—Counting multiple prior sentences as a single sentence may result in a criminal history score that underrepresents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history and the danger that the defendant presents to the public. In such a case, an upward departure may be warranted. For example, if a defendant was convicted of a number of serious non-violent offenses committed on different occasions, and the resulting sentences were counted as a single sentence because either the sentences resulted from offenses contained in the same charging instrument or the defendant was sentenced for these offenses on the same day, the assignment of a single set of points may not adequately reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the frequency with which the defendant has committed crimes.
4. Sentences Imposed in the Alternative.—A sentence which specifies a fine or other non-incarcerative disposition as an alternative to a term of imprisonment (e.g., $1,000 fine or ninety days’ imprisonment) is treated as a non-imprisonment sentence.
5. Sentences for Driving While Intoxicated or Under the Influence.—Convictions for driving while intoxicated or under the influence (and similar offenses by whatever name they are known) are counted. Such offenses are not minor traffic infractions within the meaning of §4A1.2(c).
6. Reversed, Vacated, or Invalidated Convictions.—Sentences resulting from convictions that (A) have been reversed or vacated because of errors of law or because of subsequently discovered evidence exonerating the defendant, or (B) have been ruled constitutionally invalid in a prior case are not to be counted. With respect to the current sentencing proceeding, this guideline and commentary do not confer upon the defendant any right to attack collaterally a prior conviction or sentence beyond any such rights otherwise recognized in law (e.g., 21 U.S.C. § 851 expressly provides that a defendant may collaterally attack certain prior convictions).
Nonetheless, the criminal conduct underlying any conviction that is not counted in the criminal history score may be considered pursuant to §4A1.3 (Adequacy of Criminal History Category).
7. Offenses Committed Prior to Age Eighteen.—Section 4A1.2(d) covers offenses committed prior to age eighteen. Attempting to count every juvenile adjudication would have the potential for creating large disparities due to the differential availability of records. Therefore, for offenses committed prior to age eighteen, only those that resulted in adult sentences of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month, or resulted in imposition of an adult or juvenile sentence or release from confinement on that sentence within five years of the defendant’s commencement of the instant offense are counted. To avoid disparities from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in the age at which a defendant is considered a "juvenile," this provision applies to all offenses committed prior to age eighteen.
8. Applicable Time Period.—Section 4A1.2(d)(2) and (e) establishes the time period within which prior sentences are counted. As used in §4A1.2(d)(2) and (e), the term "commencement of the instant offense" includes any relevant conduct. See §1B1.3 (Relevant Conduct). If the court finds that a sentence imposed outside this time period is evidence of similar, or serious dissimilar, criminal conduct, the court may consider this information in determining whether an upward departure is warranted under §4A1.3 (Adequacy of Criminal History Category).
9. Diversionary Dispositions.—Section 4A1.2(f) requires counting prior adult diversionary dispositions if they involved a judicial determination of guilt or an admission of guilt in open court. This reflects a policy that defendants who receive the benefit of a rehabilitative sentence and continue to commit crimes should not be treated with further leniency.
10. Convictions Set Aside or Defendant Pardoned.—A number of jurisdictions have various procedures pursuant to which previous convictions may be set aside or the defendant may be pardoned for reasons unrelated to innocence or errors of law, e.g., in order to restore civil rights or to remove the stigma associated with a criminal conviction. Sentences resulting from such convictions are to be counted. However, expunged convictions are not counted. §4A1.2(j).
11. Revocations to be Considered.—Section 4A1.2(k) covers revocations of probation and other conditional sentences where the original term of imprisonment imposed, if any, did not exceed one year and one month. Rather than count the original sentence and the resentence after revocation as separate sentences, the sentence given upon revocation should be added to the original sentence of imprisonment, if any, and the total should be counted as if it were one sentence. By this approach, no more than three points will be assessed for a single conviction, even if probation or conditional release was subsequently revoked. If the sentence originally imposed, the sentence imposed upon revocation, or the total of both sentences exceeded one year and one month, the maximum three points would be assigned. If, however, at the time of revocation another sentence was imposed for a new criminal conviction, that conviction would be computed separately from the sentence imposed for the revocation.
Where a revocation applies to multiple sentences, and such sentences are counted separately under §4A1.2(a)(2), add the term of imprisonment imposed upon revocation to the sentence that will result in the greatest increase in criminal history points. Example: A defendant was serving two probationary sentences, each counted separately under §4A1.2(a)(2); probation was revoked on both sentences as a result of the same violation conduct; and the defendant was sentenced to a total of 45 days of imprisonment. If one sentence had been a "straight" probationary sentence and the other had been a probationary sentence that had required service of 15 days of imprisonment, the revocation term of imprisonment (45 days) would be added to the probationary sentence that had the 15-day term of imprisonment. This would result in a total of 2 criminal history points under §4A1.1(b) (for the combined 60-day term of imprisonment) and 1 criminal history point under §4A1.1(c) (for the other probationary sentence).
12. Application of Subsection (c).—
(A) In General.—In determining whether an unlisted offense is similar to an offense listed in subdivision (c)(1) or (c)(2), the court should use a common sense approach that includes consideration of relevant factors such as (i) a comparison of punishments imposed for the listed and unlisted offenses; (ii) the perceived seriousness of the offense as indicated by the level of punishment; (iii) the elements of the offense; (iv) the level of culpability involved; and (v) the degree to which the commission of the offense indicates a likelihood of recurring criminal conduct.
(B) Local Ordinance Violations.— A number of local jurisdictions have enacted ordinances covering certain offenses (e.g., larceny and assault misdemeanors) that are also violations of state criminal law. This enables a local court (e.g., a municipal court) to exercise jurisdiction over such offenses. Such offenses are excluded from the definition of local ordinance violations in §4A1.2(c)(2) and, therefore, sentences for such offenses are to be treated as if the defendant had been convicted under state law.
(C) Insufficient Funds Check.—"Insufficient funds check," as used in §4A1.2(c)(1), does not include any conviction establishing that the defendant used a false name or non-existent account.
Background: Prior sentences, not otherwise excluded, are to be counted in the criminal history score, including uncounseled misdemeanor sentences where imprisonment was not imposed.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendments 262-265); November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendments 352 and 353); November 1, 1991 (see Appendix C, amendments 381 and 382); November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 472); November 1, 1993 (see Appendix C, amendment 493); November 1, 2007 (see Appendix C, amendment 709).