Amendment: Chapter One, Part A, Subpart 4(d) is amended by adding an asterisk at the end of the last paragraph after the period; and by adding at the end the following footnote:
"*Note: Although the Commission had not addressed ‘single acts of aberrant behavior’ at the time the Introduction to the Guidelines Manual originally was written, it subsequently addressed the issue in Amendment 603, effective November 1, 2000. (See Supplement to Appendix C, Amendment 603.)".
Chapter Five, Part K, Subpart 2, as amended by Amendment 602 (see supra), is further amended by adding at the end the following:
"§5K2.20. Aberrant Behavior (Policy Statement)
A sentence below the applicable guideline range may be warranted in an extraordinary case if the defendant’s criminal conduct constituted aberrant behavior. However, the court may not depart below the guideline range on this basis if (1) the offense involved serious bodily injury or death; (2) the defendant discharged a firearm or otherwise used a firearm or a dangerous weapon; (3) the instant offense of conviction is a serious drug trafficking offense; (4) the defendant has more than one criminal history point, as determined under Chapter Four (Criminal History and Criminal Livelihood); or (5) the defendant has a prior federal, or state, felony conviction, regardless of whether the conviction is countable under Chapter Four.
1. For purposes of this policy statement—
‘Aberrant behavior’ means a single criminal occurrence or single criminal transaction that (A) was committed without significant planning; (B) was of limited duration; and (C) represents a marked deviation by the defendant from an otherwise law-abiding life.
‘Dangerous weapon,’ ‘firearm,’ ‘otherwise used,’ and ‘serious bodily injury’ have the meaning given those terms in the Commentary to §1B1.1(Application Instructions).
‘Serious drug trafficking offense’ means any controlled substance offense under title 21, United States Code, other than simple possession under 21 U.S.C. § 844, that, because the defendant does not meet the criteria under §5C1.2 (Limitation on Applicability of Statutory Mandatory Minimum Sentences in Certain Cases), results in the imposition of a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment upon the defendant.
2. In determining whether the court should depart on the basis of aberrant behavior, the court may consider the defendant’s (A) mental and emotional conditions; (B) employment record; (C) record of prior good works; (D) motivation for committing the offense; and (E) efforts to mitigate the effects of the offense.".
Reason for Amendment: This amendment responds to a circuit conflict regarding whether, for purposes of downward departure from the guideline range, a "single act of aberrant behavior" (Chapter One, Part A, Subpart 4(d)) includes multiple acts occurring over a period of time. Compare United States v. Grandmaison, 77 F.3d 555 (1st Cir. 1996) (Sentencing Commission intended the word "single" to refer to the crime committed; therefore, "single acts of aberrant behavior" include multiple acts leading up to the commission of the crime; the district court should review the totality of circumstances); Zecevic v. United States Parole Commission, 163 F.3d 731 (2d Cir. 1998) (aberrant behavior is conduct which constitutes a short-lived departure from an otherwise law-abiding life, and the best test is the totality of the circumstances); United States v. Takai, 941 F.2d 738 (9th Cir. 1991) ("single act" refers to the particular action that is criminal, even though a whole series of acts lead up to the commission of the crime); United States v. Pena, 930 F.2d 1486 (10th Cir. 1991) (aberrational nature of the defendant’s conduct and other circumstances justified departure), with United States v. Marcello, 13 F.3d 752 (3d Cir. 1994) (single act of aberrant behavior requires a spontaneous, thoughtless, single act involving lack of planning); United States v. Glick, 946 F.2d 335 (4th Cir. 1991) (conduct over a ten-week period involving a number of actions and extensive planning was not "single act of aberrant behavior"); United States v. Williams, 974 F.2d 25 (5th Cir. 1992) (a single act of aberrant behavior is generally spontaneous or thoughtless); United States v. Carey, 895 F.2d 318 (7th Cir. 1990) (single act of aberrant behavior contemplates a spontaneous and seemingly thoughtless act rather than one which was the result of substantial planning); United States v. Garlich, 951 F.2d 161 (8th Cir. 1991) (fraud spanning one year and several transactions was not a "single act of aberrant behavior"); United States v. Withrow, 85 F.3d 527 (11th Cir. 1996) (a single act of aberrant behavior is not established unless the defendant is a first-time offender and the crime was a thoughtless act rather than one that was the result of substantial planning); United States v. Dyce, 78 F.3d 610 (D.C. Cir.), amd. on reh. 91 F.3d 1462 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (same).
This amendment addresses the circuit conflict but does not adopt in toto either the majority or minority circuit view on this issue. As a threshold matter, this amendment provides that the departure is available only in an extraordinary case. However, the amendment defines and describes "aberrant behavior" more flexibly than the interpretation of existing guideline language followed by the majority of circuits that have allowed a departure for aberrant behavior only in a case involving a single act that was spontaneous and seemingly thoughtless. The Commission concluded that this application of the current language in Chapter One is overly restrictive and may preclude departures for aberrant behavior in circumstances in which such a departure might be warranted. For this reason, the Commission attempted to slightly relax the "single act" rule in some respects, and provide guidance and limitations regarding what can be considered aberrant behavior. At the same time, the Commission also chose not to adopt the "totality of circumstances" approach endorsed by the minority of circuits, concluding that the latter approach is overly broad and vague. The Commission anticipates that this compromise amendment will not broadly expand departures for aberrant behavior.
The amendment creates a new policy statement and accompanying commentary in Chapter Five, Part K (Departures) that sets forth the parameters of conduct and criminal history that the Commission believes appropriately may warrant departure as "aberrant behavior." The policy statement provides, in pertinent part, that "‘aberrant behavior’ means a single criminal occurrence or single criminal transaction." The Commission intends that the phrases "single criminal occurrence" and "single criminal transaction" will be somewhat broader than "single act", but will be limited in potential applicability to offenses (1) committed without significant planning; (2) of limited duration; and (3) that represent a marked deviation by the defendant from an otherwise law-abiding life. For offense conduct to be considered for departure as aberrant behavior, the offense conduct must, at a minimum, have these characteristics. The Commission chose these characteristics after reviewing case law and public comment that indicated some support for the appropriateness of these factors.
The policy statement places significant restrictions on the type of offense and the criminal history of the offender that can be considered for this departure. The restrictions on the type of offense that can qualify reflect a Commission concern that certain offense conduct is so serious that a departure premised on a finding of aberrant behavior should not be available to those offenders who engage in such conduct. Similarly, the restrictions on criminal history reflect a Commission view that defendants with significant prior criminal records should not qualify for a departure premised on the aberrant nature of their current conduct.
The Commission recognizes that a number of other factors may have some relevance in evaluating the appropriateness of a departure based on aberrant behavior. Some of the relevant factors identified in the case law and public comment are listed in an application note.
Effective Date: The effective date of this amendment is November 1, 2000.