Abuse of Trust

Section 3B1.3 enhances a defendant’s sentencing range if the defendant used his or her position of trust, or used a special skill, to facilitate committing or covering up the offense. A person who occupies a position of trust is often subject to less supervision than others and exercises a high degree of independence. Examples in the guideline include an attorney who embezzles the funds of a client and a bank executive who engaged in a fraudulent loan scheme.

Acceptance of Responsibility

The guideline at §3E1.1 directs that the sentencing judge reduce the defendant’s offense severity score by either two or three offense levels if the defendant accepts responsibility for the offense before sentencing. Often defendants receive this reduction if they plead guilty rather than go to trial. But, a plea is not required, and pleading guilty does not guarantee receipt of this reduction. The guideline lists factors for sentencing judges to consider in deciding whether to give the reduction for acceptance of responsibility.

Accessory After the Fact

A person who knows that a crime has been committed and who helps the offender escape arrest or punishment.

Advisory Guidelines

This term is used to describe the current legal status of the sentencing guidelines, as well as to distinguish the guidelines in effect after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker, which made the guidelines advisory, from the guidelines before Booker, which are often referred to as “mandatory” or “presumptive” guidelines.

Aggravated Identity Theft

18 U.S.C. § 1028A provides a two-year consecutive statutory penalty if the defendant commits identity theft in relation to a felony or terrorism offense.

Aiding and Abetting

Aiding and abetting occurs when a person actively promotes the commission of a crime in some way, even if the person does not commit the criminal acts himself or herself. A person who aids and abets may be punished in the same way as the person who performed the criminal acts.

Alternative Base Offense Levels

Some guidelines have multiple alternative base offense levels that apply depending on whether the offense involves certain conduct, the defendant was convicted under a certain statute, or, the defendant has certain prior convictions. The general rule is to use the highest offense level among alternative base offense levels that applies to a defendant.


An amendment is a change to the Guidelines Manual. Amendments are adopted only after the Commission has proposed the change and the public has had a chance to comment on it. At least four Commissioners must vote, at a public meeting, to adopt an amendment. Congress then has 180 days to reject the amendment. If Congress does not enact legislation rejecting an amendment, the change becomes a part of the Guidelines Manual.


A non-hierarchical collective of hackers, Anonymous uses hacking (and cracking) techniques to register political protest in campaigns known as “#ops.” Best known for their distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks, past activities have included attacks against the Church of Scientology, Visa, PayPal, and others.

Anticipated Term of Imprisonment

A term of imprisonment that a federal sentencing judge anticipates that a state court judge will impose after the federal sentence is imposed. In Setser v. United States, 566 U.S. 231 (2012), the Supreme Court held that a federal court has discretion to run the federal sentence concurrently or consecutively to the anticipated state sentence. However, USSG §5G1.3(c) requires that, if the anticipated term of imprisonment is for an conviction based on criminal conduct is relevant conduct in the federal case, the sentence for the federal conviction shall be imposed to run concurrently with the anticipated term of imprisonment.

Appendix A

This part of the Guidelines Manual contains a list of federal statutes, referencing each to a Chapter Two guideline (or multiple Chapter Two guidelines to choose from) that should be used to begin determining the guideline range.

Appendix B

This part of the Guidelines Manual contains selected statutes relevant to sentencing, such as those governing presentence reports, the factors to be considered in imposing a sentence, and appellate review of sentences, among others.

Appendix C

This part of the Guidelines Manual contains every amendment made to the guidelines. Each entry contains the amendment language as well as the Reason for Amendment and effective date of the amendment.

Application Note

Application notes come after the text of most guidelines, and explain how to apply the guideline, sometimes using definitions or examples.

Armed Career Criminal

A statutory sentencing enhancement (See 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) and USSG §4B1.4) for a defendant convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (prohibited person in possession of a firearm) who has at least three prior convictions for a “violent felony” or “serious drug offense” or both committed on occasions different from one another. A defendant sentenced as an Armed Career Criminal faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 180 months.


An effort to commit a crime without success. An attempt may be punished the same as if the defendant had succeeded at committing the crime.