CHAPTER FIVE - DETERMINING THE SENTENCE


PART B - PROBATION

Introductory Commentary

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 makes probation a sentence in and of itself. 18 U.S.C. § 3561. Probation may be used as an alternative to incarceration, provided that the terms and conditions of probation can be fashioned so as to meet fully the statutory purposes of sentencing, including promoting respect for law, providing just punishment for the offense, achieving general deterrence, and protecting the public from further crimes by the defendant.

Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987.


§5B1.1. Imposition of a Term of Probation

(a)Subject to the statutory restrictions in subsection (b) below, a sentence of probation is authorized if:

(1)the applicable guideline range is in Zone A of the Sentencing Table; or

(2)the applicable guideline range is in Zone B of the Sentencing Table and the court imposes a condition or combination of conditions requiring intermittent confinement, community confinement, or home detention as provided in subsection (c)(3) of §5C1.1 (Imposition of a Term of Imprisonment).

(b)A sentence of probation may not be imposed in the event:

(1)the offense of conviction is a Class A or B felony, 18 U.S.C. § 3561(a)(1);

(2)the offense of conviction expressly precludes probation as a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3561(a)(2);

(3)the defendant is sentenced at the same time to a sentence of imprisonment for the same or a different offense, 18 U.S.C. § 3561(a)(3).

Commentary

Application Notes:

1.Except where prohibited by statute or by the guideline applicable to the offense in Chapter Two, the guidelines authorize, but do not require, a sentence of probation in the following circumstances:

(A)Where the applicable guideline range is in Zone A of the Sentencing Table (i.e., the minimum term of imprisonment specified in the applicable guideline range is zero months). In such cases, a condition requiring a period of community confinement, home detention, or intermittent confinement may be imposed but is not required.

(B)Where the applicable guideline range is in Zone B of the Sentencing Table (i.e., the minimum term of imprisonment specified in the applicable guideline range is at least one but not more than nine months). In such cases, the court may impose probation only if it imposes a condition or combination of conditions requiring a period of community confinement, home detention, or intermittent confinement sufficient to satisfy the minimum term of imprisonment specified in the guideline range. For example, where the offense level is 7 and the criminal history category is II, the guideline range from the Sentencing Table is 2-8 months. In such a case, the court may impose a sentence of probation only if it imposes a condition or conditions requiring at least two months of community confinement, home detention, or intermittent confinement, or a combination of community confinement, home detention, and intermittent confinement totaling at least two months.

2.Where the applicable guideline range is in Zone C or D of the Sentencing Table (i.e., the minimum term of imprisonment specified in the applicable guideline range is ten months or more), the guidelines do not authorize a sentence of probation. See §5C1.1 (Imposition of a Term of Imprisonment).

Background. This section provides for the imposition of a sentence of probation. The court may sentence a defendant to a term of probation in any case unless (1) prohibited by statute, or (2) where a term of imprisonment is required under §5C1.1 (Imposition of a Term of Imprisonment). Under 18 U.S.C. § 3561(a)(3), the imposition of a sentence of probation is prohibited where the defendant is sentenced at the same time to a sentence of imprisonment for the same or a different offense. Although this provision has effectively abolished the use of "split sentences" imposable pursuant to the former 18 U.S.C. § 3651, the drafters of the Sentencing Reform Act noted that the functional equivalent of the split sentence could be "achieved by a more direct and logically consistent route" by providing that a defendant serve a term of imprisonment followed by a period of supervised release. (S. Rep. No. 225, 98th Cong., 1st Sess. 89 (1983)). Section 5B1.1(a)(2) provides a transition between the circumstances under which a "straight" probationary term is authorized and those where probation is prohibited.

Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendment 302); November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 462); November 1, 2010 (see Appendix C, amendments 738 and 747).