News Release

Analysis of changes to federal sentencing guidelines points to fallacies behind Feeney Amendment

Point-by-point highlights of changes available on NACDL Web site 

Washington, DC (October 17, 2003) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' Federal Sentencing Guidelines Committee has released its analysis of changes to the sentencing guidelines by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, passed October 7 in response to Congressional directives contained in the Feeney Amendment to the PROTECT Act.

Available at, the committee has produced both a policy analysis and a point-by-point analysis of the changes made by the Sentencing Commission. The changes go into effect on October 27.

The policy analysis, by committee co-chair Mark Allenbaugh, points out the lack of deliberation prior to the addition of the Feeney Amendment to the popular PROTECT Act, the primary purpose of which was Amber Alert legislation.

The changes "result from a process driven by the Ashcroft Justice Department that involved distortions of the facts, particularly the principal fact that the overwhelming majority of all downward departures are granted at the express request of government prosecutors rather than in the exercise of independent judicial discretion," wrote Allenbaugh, formerly a staffer for the Sentencing Commission. Data released by the Commission earlier this month refute the Justice Department''s argument that the increase in departures is indicative of "soft-on-crime" judges.

"The Commission, unfortunately, bowed to pressures from the Ashcroft Justice Department and eliminated nine separate grounds for departure without sufficient empirical evidence to support that action," Allenbaugh wrote.

For more information, go to, or contact Kyle O'Dowd, NACDL Legislative Director, at (202) 872-8600x226.

Allenbaugh is a criminal defense lawyer in Washington, DC. He can be reached at (202) 296-1322.

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.