2009 FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES MANUAL
CHAPTER 4 - PART A - CRIMINAL HISTORY
§4A1.3. Departures Based on Inadequacy of Criminal History Category (Policy Statement)
(a) UPWARD DEPARTURES.—
(1) STANDARD FOR UPWARD DEPARTURE.—If reliable information indicates that the defendant’s criminal history category substantially under-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit other crimes, an upward departure may be warranted.
(2) TYPES OF INFORMATION FORMING THE BASIS FOR UPWARD DEPARTURE.—The information described in subsection (a) may include information concerning the following:
(A) Prior sentence(s) not used in computing the criminal history category (e.g., sentences for foreign and tribal offenses).
(B) Prior sentence(s) of substantially more than one year imposed as a result of independent crimes committed on different occasions.
(C) Prior similar misconduct established by a civil adjudication or by a failure to comply with an administrative order.
(D) Whether the defendant was pending trial or sentencing on another charge at the time of the instant offense.
(E) Prior similar adult criminal conduct not resulting in a criminal conviction.
(3) PROHIBITION.—A prior arrest record itself shall not be considered for purposes of an upward departure under this policy statement.
(4) DETERMINATION OF EXTENT OF UPWARD DEPARTURE.—
(A) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subdivision (B), the court shall determine the extent of a departure under this subsection by using, as a reference, the criminal history category applicable to defendants whose criminal history or likelihood to recidivate most closely resembles that of the defendant’s.
(B) UPWARD DEPARTURES FROM CATEGORY VI.—In a case in which the court determines that the extent and nature of the defendant’s criminal history, taken together, are sufficient to warrant an upward departure from Criminal History Category VI, the court should structure the departure by moving incrementally down the sentencing table to the next higher offense level in Criminal History Category VI until it finds a guideline range appropriate to the case.
(b) DOWNWARD DEPARTURES.—
(1) STANDARD FOR DOWNWARD DEPARTURE.—If reliable information indicates that the defendant’s criminal history category substantially over-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit other crimes, a downward departure may be warranted.
(A) CRIMINAL HISTORY CATEGORY I.—A departure below the lower limit of the applicable guideline range for Criminal History Category I is prohibited.
(B) ARMED CAREER CRIMINAL AND REPEAT AND DANGEROUS SEX OFFENDER.—A downward departure under this subsection is prohibited for (i) an armed career criminal within the meaning of §4B1.4 (Armed Career Criminal); and (ii) a repeat and dangerous sex offender against minors within the meaning of §4B1.5 (Repeat and Dangerous Sex Offender Against Minors).
(A) LIMITATION ON EXTENT OF DOWNWARD DEPARTURE FOR CAREER OFFENDER.—The extent of a downward departure under this subsection for a career offender within the meaning of §4B1.1 (Career Offender) may not exceed one criminal history category.
(B) LIMITATION ON APPLICABILITY OF §5C1.2 IN EVENT OF DOWNWARD DEPARTURE TO CATEGORY I.—A defendant whose criminal history category is Category I after receipt of a downward departure under this subsection does not meet the criterion of subsection (a)(1) of §5C1.2 (Limitation on Applicability of Statutory Maximum Sentences in Certain Cases) if, before receipt of the downward departure, the defendant had more than one criminal history point under §4A1.1 (Criminal History Category).
(c) WRITTEN SPECIFICATION OF BASIS FOR DEPARTURE.—In departing from the otherwise applicable criminal history category under this policy statement, the court shall specify in writing the following:
(1) In the case of an upward departure, the specific reasons why the applicable criminal history category substantially under-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit other crimes.
(2) In the case of a downward departure, the specific reasons why the applicable criminal history category substantially over-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit other crimes.
1. Definitions.—For purposes of this policy statement, the terms "depart", "departure", "downward departure", and "upward departure" have the meaning given those terms in Application Note 1 of the Commentary to §1B1.1 (Application Instructions).
2. Upward Departures.—
(A) Examples.—An upward departure from the defendant’s criminal history category may be warranted based on any of the following circumstances:
(i) A previous foreign sentence for a serious offense.
(ii) Receipt of a prior consolidated sentence of ten years for a series of serious assaults.
(iii) A similar instance of large scale fraudulent misconduct established by an adjudication in a Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement proceeding.
(iv) Commission of the instant offense while on bail or pretrial release for another serious offense.
(B) Upward Departures from Criminal History Category VI.—In the case of an egregious, serious criminal record in which even the guideline range for Criminal History Category VI is not adequate to reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history, a departure above the guideline range for a defendant with Criminal History Category VI may be warranted. In determining whether an upward departure from Criminal History Category VI is warranted, the court should consider that the nature of the prior offenses rather than simply their number is often more indicative of the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal record. For example, a defendant with five prior sentences for very large-scale fraud offenses may have 15 criminal history points, within the range of points typical for Criminal History Category VI, yet have a substantially more serious criminal history overall because of the nature of the prior offenses.
3. Downward Departures.—A downward departure from the defendant’s criminal history category may be warranted if, for example, the defendant had two minor misdemeanor convictions close to ten years prior to the instant offense and no other evidence of prior criminal behavior in the intervening period. A departure below the lower limit of the applicable guideline range for Criminal History Category I is prohibited under subsection (b)(2)(B), due to the fact that the lower limit of the guideline range for Criminal History Category I is set for a first offender with the lowest risk of recidivism.
Background: This policy statement recognizes that the criminal history score is unlikely to take into account all the variations in the seriousness of criminal history that may occur. For example, a defendant with an extensive record of serious, assaultive conduct who had received what might now be considered extremely lenient treatment in the past might have the same criminal history category as a defendant who had a record of less serious conduct. Yet, the first defendant’s criminal history clearly may be more serious. This may be particularly true in the case of younger defendants (e.g., defendants in their early twenties or younger) who are more likely to have received repeated lenient treatment, yet who may actually pose a greater risk of serious recidivism than older defendants. This policy statement authorizes the consideration of a departure from the guidelines in the limited circumstances where reliable information indicates that the criminal history category does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or likelihood of recidivism, and provides guidance for the consideration of such departures.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1991 (see Appendix C, amendment 381); November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 460); October 27, 2003 (see Appendix C, amendment 651).