2001 Federal Sentencing Guideline Manual


§4A1.3. Adequacy of Criminal History Category (Policy Statement)

If reliable information indicates that the criminal history category does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s past criminal conduct or the likelihood that the defendant will commit other crimes, the court may consider imposing a sentence departing from the otherwise applicable guideline range. Such information may include, but is not limited to, information concerning:

(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.

A departure under this provision is warranted when the criminal history category significantly under-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit further crimes. Examples might include the case of a defendant who (1) had several previous foreign sentences for serious offenses, (2) had received a prior consolidated sentence of ten years for a series of serious assaults, (3) had a similar instance of large scale fraudulent misconduct established by an adjudication in a Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement proceeding, (4) committed the instant offense while on bail or pretrial release for another serious offense, or (5) for appropriate reasons, such as cooperation in the prosecution of other defendants, had previously received an extremely lenient sentence for a serious offense. The court may, after a review of all the relevant information, conclude that the defendant’s criminal history was significantly more serious than that of most defendants in the same criminal history category, and therefore consider an upward departure from the guidelines. However, a prior arrest record itself shall not be considered under §4A1.3.

There may be cases where the court concludes that a defendant’s criminal history category significantly over-represents the seriousness of a defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit further crimes. An example might include the case of a defendant with 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. The court may conclude that the defendant’s criminal history was significantly less serious than that of most defendants in the same criminal history category (Category II), and therefore consider a downward departure from the guidelines.

In considering a departure under this provision, the Commission intends that the court use, as a reference, the guideline range for a defendant with a higher or lower criminal history category, as applicable. For example, if the court concludes that the defendant’s criminal history category of III significantly under-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history, and that the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history most closely resembles that of most defendants with Criminal History Category IV, the court should look to the guideline range specified for a defendant with Criminal History Category IV to guide its departure. The Commission contemplates that there may, on occasion, be a 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. In such a case, 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. On the other hand, a defendant with nine prior 60-day jail sentences for offenses such as petty larceny, prostitution, or possession of gambling slips has a higher number of criminal history points (18 points) than the typical Criminal History Category VI defendant, but not necessarily a more serious criminal history overall. Where 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.

However, this provision is not symmetrical. The lower limit of the range for Criminal History Category I is set for a first offender with the lowest risk of recidivism. Therefore, a departure below the lower limit of the guideline range for Criminal History Category I on the basis of the adequacy of criminal history cannot be appropriate.

Commentary

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).