Prior to the implementation of the federal sentencing guidelines, a court could stay the imposition or execution of sentence and place a defendant on probation. When a court found that a defendant violated a condition of probation, the court could continue probation, with or without extending the term or modifying the conditions, or revoke probation and either impose the term of imprisonment previously stayed, or, where no term of imprisonment had originally been imposed, impose any term of imprisonment that was available at the initial sentencing.
The statutory authority to "suspend" the imposition or execution of sentence in order to impose a term of probation was abolished upon implementation of the sentencing guidelines. Instead, the Sentencing Reform Act recognized probation as a sentence in itself. 18 U.S.C. § 3561. Under current law, if the court finds that a defendant violated a condition of probation, the court may continue probation, with or without extending the term or modifying the conditions, or revoke probation and impose any other sentence that initially could have been imposed. 18 U.S.C. § 3565. For certain violations, revocation is required by statute.
(b) Supervised Release.
Supervised release, a new form of post-imprisonment supervision created by the Sentencing Reform Act, accompanied implementation of the guidelines. A term of supervised release may be imposed by the court as a part of the sentence of imprisonment at the time of initial sentencing. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(a). Unlike parole, a term of supervised release does not replace a portion of the sentence of imprisonment, but rather is an order of supervision in addition to any term of imprisonment imposed by the court. Accordingly, supervised release is more analogous to the additional "special parole term" previously authorized for certain drug offenses.
The conditions of supervised release authorized by statute are the same as those for a sentence of probation, except for intermittent confinement. (Intermittent confinement is available for a sentence of probation, but is available as a condition of supervised release only for a violation of a condition of supervised release.) When the court finds that the defendant violated a condition of supervised release, it may continue the defendant on supervised release, with or without extending the term or modifying the conditions, or revoke supervised release and impose a term of imprisonment. The periods of imprisonment authorized by statute for a violation of the conditions of supervised release generally are more limited, however, than those available for a violation of the conditions of probation. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3).
3. Resolution of Major Issues
(a) Guidelines versus Policy Statements.
At the outset, the Commission faced a choice between promulgating guidelines or issuing advisory policy statements for the revocation of probation and supervised release. After considered debate and input from judges, probation officers, and prosecuting and defense attorneys, the Commission decided, for a variety of reasons, initially to issue policy statements. Not only was the policy statement option expressly authorized by statute, but this approach provided greater flexibility to both the Commission and the courts. Unlike guidelines, policy statements are not subject to the May 1 statutory deadline for submission to Congress, and the Commission believed that it would benefit from the additional time to consider complex issues relating to revocation guidelines provided by the policy statement option.
Moreover, the Commission anticipates that, because of its greater flexibility, the policy statement option will provide better opportunities for evaluation by the courts and the Commission. This flexibility is important, given that supervised release as a method of post-incarceration supervision and transformation of probation from a suspension of sentence to a sentence in itself represent recent changes in federal sentencing practices. After an adequate period of evaluation, the Commission intends to promulgate revocation guidelines.
(b) Choice Between Theories.
The Commission debated two different approaches to sanctioning violations of probation and supervised release.
The first option considered a violation resulting from a defendant’s failure to follow the courtimposed conditions of probation or supervised release as a “breach of trust.” While the nature of the conduct leading to the revocation would be considered in measuring the extent of the breach of trust, imposition of an appropriate punishment for any new criminal conduct would not be the primary goal of a revocation sentence. Instead, the sentence imposed upon revocation would be intended to sanction the violator for failing to abide by the conditions of the court-ordered supervision, leaving the punishment for any new criminal conduct to the court responsible for imposing the sentence for that offense.
The second option considered by the Commission sought to sanction violators for the particular conduct triggering the revocation as if that conduct were being sentenced as new federal criminal conduct. Under this approach, offense guidelines in Chapters Two and Three of the Guidelines Manual would be applied to any criminal conduct that formed the basis of the violation, after which the criminal history in Chapter Four of the Guidelines Manual would be recalculated to determine the appropriate revocation sentence. This option would also address a violation not constituting a criminal offense.
After lengthy consideration, the Commission adopted an approach that is consistent with the theory of the first option; i.e., at revocation the court should sanction primarily the defendant’s breach of trust, while taking into account, to a limited degree, the seriousness of the underlying violation and the criminal history of the violator.
The Commission adopted this approach for a variety of reasons. First, although the Commission found desirable several aspects of the second option that provided for a detailed revocation guideline system similar to that applied at the initial sentencing, extensive testing proved it to be impractical. In particular, with regard to new criminal conduct that constituted a violation of state or local law, working groups expert in the functioning of federal criminal law noted that it would be difficult in many instances for the court or the parties to obtain the information necessary to apply properly the guidelines to this new conduct. The potential unavailability of information and witnesses necessary for a determination of specific offense characteristics or other guideline adjustments could create questions about the accuracy of factual findings concerning the existence of those factors.
In addition, the Commission rejected the second option because that option was inconsistent with its views that the court with jurisdiction over the criminal conduct leading to revocation is the more appropriate body to impose punishment for that new criminal conduct, and that, as a breach of trust inherent in the conditions of supervision, the sanction for the violation of trust should be in addition, or consecutive, to any sentence imposed for the new conduct. In contrast, the second option would have the revocation court substantially duplicate the sanctioning role of the court with jurisdiction over a defendant’s new criminal conduct and would provide for the punishment imposed upon revocation to run concurrently with, and thus generally be subsumed in, any sentence imposed for that new criminal conduct.
Further, the sanctions available to the courts upon revocation are, in many cases, more significantly restrained by statute. Specifically, the term of imprisonment that may be imposed upon revocation of supervised release is limited by statute to not more than five years for persons convicted of Class A felonies, except for certain Title 21 drug offenses; not more than three years for Class B felonies; not more than two years for Class C or D felonies; and not more than one year for Class E felonies. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3).
Given the relatively narrow ranges of incarceration available in many cases, combined with the potential difficulty in obtaining information necessary to determine specific offense characteristics, the Commission felt that it was undesirable at this time to develop guidelines that attempt to distinguish, in detail, the wide variety of behavior that can lead to revocation. Indeed, with the relatively low ceilings set by statute, revocation policy statements that attempted to delineate with great particularity the gradations of conduct leading to revocation would frequently result in a sentence at the statutory maximum penalty.
Accordingly, the Commission determined that revocation policy statements that provided for three broad grades of violations would permit proportionally longer terms for more serious violations and thereby would address adequately concerns about proportionality, without creating the problems inherent in the second option.
4. The Basic Approach
The revocation policy statements categorize violations of probation and supervised release in three broad classifications ranging from serious new felonious criminal conduct to less serious criminal conduct and technical violations. The grade of the violation, together with the violator’s criminal history category calculated at the time of the initial sentencing, fix the applicable sentencing range.
The Commission has elected to develop a single set of policy statements for revocation of both probation and supervised release. In reviewing the relevant literature, the Commission determined that the purpose of supervision for probation and supervised release should focus on the integration of the violator into the community, while providing the supervision designed to limit further criminal conduct. Although there was considerable debate as to whether the sanction imposed upon revocation of probation should be different from that imposed upon revocation of supervised release, the Commission has initially concluded that a single set of policy statements is appropriate.
5. A Concluding Note
The Commission views these policy statements for revocation of probation and supervised release as the first step in an evolutionary process. The Commission expects to issue revocation guidelines after judges, probation officers, and practitioners have had an opportunity to apply and comment on the policy statements.
In developing these policy statements, the Commission assembled two outside working groups of experienced probation officers representing every circuit in the nation, officials from the Probation Division of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the General Counsel’s office at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and the U.S. Parole Commission. In addition, a number of federal judges, members of the Criminal Law and Probation Administration Committee of the Judicial Conference, and representatives from the Department of Justice and federal and community defenders provided considerable input into this effort.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 362). Amended effective November 1, 2002 (see Appendix C, amendment 646); November 1, 2009 (see Appendix C, amendment 733).
§§7A1.1 - 7A1.4 [Deleted]
Historical Note: Sections 7A1.1 (Reporting of Violations of Probation and Supervised Release), 7A1.2 (Revocation of Probation), 7A1.3 (Revocation of Supervised Release), and 7A1.4 (No Credit for Time Under Supervision), effective November 1, 1987, were deleted as part of an overall revision of this chapter effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 362).
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 362).
§7B1.1. Classification of Violations (Policy Statement)
(a) There are three grades of probation and supervised release violations:
(1) Grade A Violations — conduct constituting (A) a federal, state, or local offense punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year that (i) is a crime of violence, (ii) is a controlled substance offense, or (iii) involves possession of a firearm or destructive device of a type described in 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a); or (B) any other federal, state, or local offense punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding twenty years;
(2) Grade B Violations — conduct constituting any other federal, state, or local offense punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year;
(3) Grade C Violations — conduct constituting (A) a federal, state, or local offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of one year or less; or
(B) a violation of any other condition of supervision.
(b) Where there is more than one violation of the conditions of supervision, or the violation includes conduct that constitutes more than one offense, the grade of the violation is determined by the violation having the most serious grade.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 362). Amended effective November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 473); November 1, 1997 (see Appendix C, amendment 568); November 1, 2002 (see Appendix C, amendment 646).
§7B1.2. Reporting of Violations of Probation and Supervised Release (Policy Statement)
(a) The probation officer shall promptly report to the court any alleged Grade A or B violation.
(b) The probation officer shall promptly report to the court any alleged Grade C violation unless the officer determines: (1) that such violation is minor, and not part of a continuing pattern of violations; and (2) that non-reporting will not present an undue risk to an individual or the public or be inconsistent with any directive of the court relative to the reporting of violations.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 362).
§7B1.3. Revocation of Probation or Supervised Release (Policy Statement)
(a) (1) Upon a finding of a Grade A or B violation, the court shall revoke probation or supervised release.
(2) Upon a finding of a Grade C violation, the court may (A) revoke probation or supervised release; or (B) extend the term of probation or supervised release and/or modify the conditions of supervision.
(b) In the case of a revocation of probation or supervised release, the applicable range of imprisonment is that set forth in §7B1.4 (Term of Imprisonment).
(c) In the case of a Grade B or C violation —
(1) Where the minimum term of imprisonment determined under §7B1.4 (Term of Imprisonment) is at least one month but not more than six months, the minimum term may be satisfied by (A) a sentence of imprisonment; or (B) a sentence of imprisonment that includes a term of supervised release with a condition that substitutes community confinement or home detention according to the schedule in §5C1.1(e) for any portion of the minimum term; and
(2) Where the minimum term of imprisonment determined under §7B1.4 (Term of Imprisonment) is more than six months but not more than ten months, the minimum term may be satisfied by (A) a sentence of imprisonment; or (B) a sentence of imprisonment that includes a term of supervised release with a condition that substitutes community confinement or home detention according to the schedule in §5C1.1(e), provided that at least one-half of the minimum term is satisfied by imprisonment.
(3) In the case of a revocation based, at least in part, on a violation of a condition specifically pertaining to community confinement, intermittent confinement, or home detention, use of the same or a less restrictive sanction is not recommended.
(d) Any restitution, fine, community confinement, home detention, or intermittent confinement previously imposed in connection with the sentence for which revocation is ordered that remains unpaid or unserved at the time of revocation shall be ordered to be paid or served in addition to the sanction determined under §7B1.4 (Term of Imprisonment), and any such unserved period of community confinement, home detention, or intermittent confinement may be converted to an equivalent period of imprisonment.
(e) Where the court revokes probation or supervised release and imposes a term of imprisonment, it shall increase the term of imprisonment determined under subsections (b), (c), and (d) above by the amount of time in official detention that will be credited toward service of the term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b), other than time in official detention resulting from the federal probation or supervised release violation warrant or proceeding.
(f) Any term of imprisonment imposed upon the revocation of probation or supervised release shall be ordered to be served consecutively to any sentence of imprisonment that the defendant is serving, whether or not the sentence of imprisonment being served resulted from the conduct that is the basis of the revocation of probation or supervised release.
(g) (1) If probation is revoked and a term of imprisonment is imposed, the provisions of §§5D1.1-1.3 shall apply to the imposition of a term of supervised release.
(2) If supervised release is revoked, the court may include a requirement that the defendant be placed on a term of supervised release upon release from imprisonment. The length of such a term of supervised release shall not exceed the term of supervised release authorized by statute for the offense that resulted in the original term of supervised release, less any term of imprisonment that was imposed upon revocation of supervised release. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(h).
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 362). Amended effective November 1, 1991 (see Appendix C, amendment 427); November 1, 1995 (see Appendix C, amendment 533); November 1, 2002 (see Appendix C, amendment 646); November 1, 2004 (see Appendix C, amendment 664); November 1, 2009 (see Appendix C, amendment 733).
§7B1.4. Term of Imprisonment (Policy Statement)
(a) The range of imprisonment applicable upon revocation is set forth in the following table:Revocation Table (in months of imprisonment) Criminal History Category* Grade of Violation I II III IV V VI Grade C 3-9 4-10 5-11 6-12 7-13 8-14 Grade B 4-10 6-12 8-14 12-18 18-24 21-27 Grade A (1) Except as provided in subdivision (2) below: 12-18 15-21 18-24 24-30 30-37 33-41 (2) Where the defendant was on probation or supervised release as a result of a sentence for a Class A felony: 24-30 27-33 30-37 37-46 46-57 51-63.
*The criminal history category is the category applicable at the time the defendant originally was sentenced to a term of supervision.
(b) Provided, that —
(1) Where the statutorily authorized maximum term of imprisonment that is imposable upon revocation is less than the minimum of the applicable range, the statutorily authorized maximum term shall be substituted for the applicable range; and
(2) Where the minimum term of imprisonment required by statute, if any, is greater than the maximum of the applicable range, the minimum term of imprisonment required by statute shall be substituted for the applicable range.
(3) In any other case, the sentence upon revocation may be imposed at any point within the applicable range, provided that the sentence —
(A) is not greater than the maximum term of imprisonment authorized by statute; and
(B) is not less than any minimum term of imprisonment required by statute.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 362); November 1, 1995 (see Appendix C, amendment 533).
§7B1.5. No Credit for Time Under Supervision (Policy Statement)
(a) Upon revocation of probation, no credit shall be given (toward any sentence of imprisonment imposed) for any portion of the term of probation served prior to revocation.
(b) Upon revocation of supervised release, no credit shall be given (toward any term of imprisonment ordered) for time previously served on post-release supervision.
(c) Provided, that in the case of a person serving a period of supervised release on a foreign sentence under the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 4106A, credit shall be given for time on supervision prior to revocation, except that no credit shall be given for any time in escape or absconder status.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 362).