Career Offender

A defendant is a Career Offender if (1) he or she has been convicted in federal court of a felony crime of violence or drug-trafficking offense committed as an adult, and (2) has at least two prior felony convictions for either a crime of violence or drug trafficking offense or both that receive criminal history points under the guidelines. A Career Offender’s guidelines sentence ordinarily is required to be at or near the statutory maximum for his or her federal conviction.

Categorical Approach

The method for determining whether a defendant’s offense (usually a prior conviction) fits within a given definition, such as for a “crime of violence,” “violent felony,” “drug trafficking offense,” or other term describing a specific type of offense. The categorical approach requires the court to compare the elements of the prior offense to the relevant definition. The court is not permitted to look to the conduct underlying the prior conviction to determine the elements of the prior offense. Rather, the court must examine the elements of the relevant penal statute. Also see Modified Categorical Approach.


One Commissioner is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate as the Chair of the Commission and is responsible for presiding over Commission meetings and for seeking and spending congressional appropriations.

Chapter Three Adjustment

Adjustments such as Role in the Offense (Chapter Three, Part B), Obstruction of Justice (§3C1.1) and Acceptance of Responsibility (§3E1.1) that could apply to a defendant after application of the Chapter Two guidelines.


The power of the President in the federal system, or a Governor in the state system, to pardon a criminal or commute a sentence.

Clerk of Court

An officer of the court responsible for clerical and administrative matters, for example maintaining case files, making certified copies of documents for the public, etc. Each federal district has one Clerk of Court, who in turn has Deputy Clerks responsible for day to day court activities.


An individual who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as a voting member on the United States Sentencing Commission. By statute, there also are two non-voting ex officio Commissioners (the Attorney General or his or her designee and the Chair of the United States Parole Commission).

Common Scheme or Plan

Offenses that are outside the offense of conviction but are Relevant Conduct because they are substantially connected to each other by at least one common factor, such as common victims, common accomplices, common purpose, or similar modus operandiSee USSG §1B1.3(a)(2) and Application Note 5(B).

Community Confinement

Residence in a community treatment center, halfway house, mental health facility, or some other similar community facility. Community confinement may be imposed as a condition of probation or supervised release and also may be a substitute for some or all of the term imprisonment for guideline sentences in Zones B and C of the Sentencing Table. See USSG §5C1.1.

Community Service

Service work in the community that may be ordered as a condition of probation or supervised release and generally should not be imposed in excess of 400 hours.See USSG §5F1.3.

Compassionate Release

18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)A) allows the Bureau of Prisons, or a prisoner, to petition the court for a reduction in a term of imprisonment under limited circumstances. For example, the prisoner may be elderly, or may be facing a life-threatening illness or experiencing extenuating family circumstances. Candidates for compassionate release must have served a significant portion of their sentence and cannot be a danger to another person or to the community.

Concurrent Sentence

A sentence for a conviction that a court orders a defendant to serve simultaneously with the defendant’s sentence for a different conviction. A sentence may be fully or partially concurrent.

Consecutive Sentence

A sentence for a conviction that a court orders a defendant to serve only after he has discharged a sentence for a different conviction A sentence may be fully or partially consecutive.


An agreement by two or more people to commit an unlawful act. For many types of conspiracy one of more conspirators also must commit at least one “overt act” toward to the goal of the conspiracy for there to be criminal liability.

Controlled Substance Offense

Generally, an offense involving an illegal drug. However, in the specific context of the guidelines, a “controlled substance offense” is offense under federal or state law punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year that prohibits the manufacture, import, export, distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance or possession with intent to do so. See USSG §4B1.2(b).


The result of a criminal court proceeding which ends in a judgment that the defendant is guilty as charged.

Costs of Prosecution

Some statutes require the court to impose the costs of prosecution on a defendant.


Breaking into a secure computer system, frequently to do damage or for financial gain. However, cracking is also employed to protest government policies or to make social statements.

Crime of Violence

Any offense under federal or state law, generally punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year, that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another. Crime of violence also includes certain enumerated offenses such as murder, voluntary manslaughter and kidnapping. Different variations of the definition of crime of violence are found in federal statutes. The Guidelines’ definition is found at USSG §4B1.2.

Criminal History Category

The category assigned to the defendant based on the defendant’s prior criminal history. The criminal history category (sometimes referred to as “CHC”) is determined according to rules contained in Chapter Four of the Guidelines Manual. The criminal history category is reflected in the horizontal axis of the sentencing table. A higher criminal history category increases the guidelines range.

Criminal Justice Sentence

A sentence countable under §4A1.2 having a custodial or supervisory component, although for the latter active supervision is not required. Two points are assigned in the calculation of the defendant’s criminal history under §4A1.1(d) if he/she committed any part of the instant offense while under a criminal justice sentence.

Criminal Livelihood

A Chapter Four “override” that applies when the defendant commits an offense as part of a pattern of criminal conduct engaged in as a livelihood. See USSG §4B1.3 (Criminal Livelihood).

Critical Infrastructure

Fraud can affect critical infrastructures. Critical infrastructures are systems and assets vital to national defense, national security, economic security, public health or safety. Examples include gas and oil production, water supply systems, electrical power delivery systems and emergency services such as fire and rescue and police. See §2B1.1(b)(19) and App. Note 15(A). Section 2B1.1(b)(19) enhances a defendant’s sentencing range for certain types of fraud affecting critical infrastructures.

Cross Reference

An instruction to apply another offense guideline. Cross references are found in several Chapter Two guidelines and often instruct that such a reference should be used only if it results in a greater offense level.


The broad name for digital currencies that use blockchain technology to work on a peer-to-peer basis. Cryptocurrencies don't require a bank to carry out transactions between individuals. The nature of the blockchain means that individuals can conduct transactions even if they don't trust or know each other. The cryptocurrency network keeps track of all transactions and ensures that no one reneges.