News Release

For Immediate Release
October 10, 2001

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


WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 10, 2001) – Pending before Congress is an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines that would enhance the penalties for offenses that involve the use of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction; and any threats, attempts, or conspiracies to use such weapons. The revised guidelines ensure that a person committing an offense with the intent to injure the United States of America or to aid a foreign nation or a foreign terrorist organization will receive a sentence of imprisonment of 30 years to life.

The amendment, passed unanimously by the Commission, was sent to Congress on May 1, 2001, and will take effect November 1, 2001, unless Congress passes legislation disapproving it. Said Commission Chair Judge Diana E. Murphy, “The Commission took these actions prior to the events of September 11, 2001, after considering the sense of Congress and concerns raised by the law enforcement community. With the new amendment in place, judges faced with these types of offenders will be empowered to impose life sentences in each case, should they so determine.”

A copy of the Sentencing Commission’s staff report entitled Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons Policy Team: Report to the Commission (December 4, 2000) and the text of the related guideline amendment is provided on the Commission’s website at

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 more than a half a million defendants under the guidelines.

United States Sentencing Commission