April 25, 1997

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jonathan Wroblewski
Friday, April 25, 1997
(202) 273-4520

Sentencing Commission Increases Penalties for
Trafficking and Use of "Date Rape" Drug

WASHINGTON, D.C. ­ In a unanimous decision, the United States Sentencing Commission today substantially increased penalties for possession and trafficking of flunitrazepam, the so-called "date-rape" drug, and for distributing any controlled substance with the intent to commit a crime of violence.

"We believe that using drugs to commit a rape, sexual assault, or other violent crime is among the most serious offenses and must be punished severely," said Judge Richard P. Conaboy, Chairman of the Sentencing Commission.

The Commission's action implements provisions of the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention Act of 1996, passed overwhelmingly by Congress last Fall. The Commission voted to amend the federal sentencing guidelines to severely punish the distribution of any controlled substance with the intent to commit a violent crime.

In addition, the Commission amended its drug guidelines to make penalties for trafficking in flunitrazepam similar to those for trafficking in Schedule I depressants. Commissioners also voted to make the penalties for simple possession of flunitrazepam the same as those for the simple possession of powder cocaine, LSD, or PCP.

These amendments, together with other guideline amendments passed by the Commission, will be transmitted to Congress May 1, 1997. If Congress does not disapprove the amendments during a 180-day review period, they will take effect November 1, 1997.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the Judicial Branch of the federal government, was organized in late 1985 to develop a national sentencing policy for the federal courts. The resulting sentencing guidelines, which went into effect November 1, 1987, structure the courts' sentencing discretion to ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences. Since nationwide implementation in January 1989, federal judges have sentenced nearly 300,000 defendants under the guidelines.