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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.