News Release

U.S. Sentencing Commission
One Columbus Circle NE
Washington, DC 20002-8002

For Immediate Release:
March 1, 2001

Contact: Michael Courlander
Public Affairs Officer
(202) 502-4597


Agency Also Implements Guidelines for Human Trafficking Offenses

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 1, 2001) -- At its February public meeting, the United States Sentencing Commission voted to adopt several amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines that will significantly increase penalties for counterfeiting and amphetamine trafficking. In addition, the Commission modified the sentencing guidelines in response to Congress's creation of new offenses related to human trafficking. All modifications are subject to congressional approval and, once in effect, are used by judges in the sentencing of defendants convicted of a federal crime.

In the area of counterfeiting, the Commission voted to send to Congress an amendment to the sentencing guidelines that increases by approximately 25 percent the penalties for the large-scale manufacture (i.e., $70,000 or more) of counterfeit currency. The amendment applies this same increase to offenders who possess counterfeiting paraphernalia, such as distinctive paper with watermarks, seals, and security threads.

Said Commission Chair, Judge Diana E. Murphy, "The integrity of the nation's currency system is a fundamental concern that must be safeguarded. The Commission is mindful that technology continues to improve and offenders may increasingly try to circumvent security measures built into government notes and bonds. The Commission's amendment was, in large part, promulgated to deter such efforts."

The Commission will send the counterfeiting amendment to Congress by May 1, 2001, and it will become effective November 1, 2001, unless Congress passes legislation to disapprove the amendment.

In response to a directive in the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000, the Commission promulgated a temporary, emergency amendment that increases guideline penalties for amphetamine offenses to make the penalties equal to those for methamphetamine offenses. The Commission chose to treat amphetamine and methamphetamine identically because of the similarities of the two substances. The two drugs (1) are similar chemically, (2) are produced by a similar method, (2) are trafficked in a similar manner, (4) share similar methods of use, (5) affect the same parts of the brain, and (6) have similar intoxicating effects. By virtue of the new, emergency amendment, amphetamine offenses involving 50 grams of the drug will generate a five-year guideline sentence. Previously, the guidelines required 500 grams of amphetamine to trigger a five-year sentence. The emergency amendment becomes effective May 1, 2001. In April 2001, the Commission will vote on whether to promulgate the amendment as permanent. Amendments the Commission wishes to make permanent will take effect November 1, 2001, unless Congress disapproves them during a six-month review period.

The Sentencing Commission, in response to the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, also voted to adopt a temporary, emergency amendment to ensure that the sentencing guidelines are sufficiently stringent to deter offenses involving the trafficking of persons and to adequately reflect the heinous nature of these offenses. These offenses include sex trafficking of children by force, fraud, or coercion; crimes of peonage; involuntary servitude; slave trade offenses; and possession, transfer or sale of false immigration documents in furtherance of human trafficking. The Commission's emergency amendment incorporates into the guidelines the new offenses created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and provides additional sentencing enhancements to reflect increases in statutory maximum penalties.

The amendment also created a new guideline for criminal violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. These offenses have a statutory maximum sentence of one year of imprisonment for first offenses and three years' imprisonment for subsequent offenses. The Commission's emergency amendment regarding human trafficking will go into effect May 1, 2000. The Commission is slated to vote in April 2001 on whether to make the amendment permanent.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of federal government, was organized in 1985 to develop a national sentencing policy for the federal courts. The resulting sentencing guidelines 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 over half a million defendants under the guidelines.

United States Sentencing Commission: