Do I Qualify for the Federal Sentencing “Safety Valve” Exception?
When it comes to sentencing defendants who have been convicted of certain federal offenses, courts are generally required to implement a strict guideline of minimum mandatory sentences. Fortunately, there are some instances, in which a judge can issue a sentence that differs from these guidelines, so if you have been charged in federal court, it’s a good idea to have a thorough understanding of the potential penalties that you face and whether the judge would be required to issue a mandatory minimum sentence. For help with these, and other defense-related issues, please contact a member of our dedicated federal crime legal team for advice.
Avoiding Minimum Mandatory Sentencing
One of the ways that a defendant can avoid a minimum mandatory sentence is to provide the prosecutor with substantial assistance by providing them with valuable information on other crimes. However, defendants can only escape a minimum mandatory sentence in these cases if the prosecutor deems the information worthy and files a substantial assistance motion on their behalf. Fortunately, there is another method of avoiding mandatory sentencing, known as the safety valve. This term refers to a provision located in the U.S. criminal code that specifically allows federal judges to sentence a person to below the minimum mandatory required by law.
Eligibility for the Safety Valve
In order to be eligible for application of the safety valve provision, a defendant must be able to prove that:
- He or she doesn’t have more than one criminal history point;
- He or she didn’t use violence, threats of violence, or a firearm in connection with the crime;
- The offense in question didn’t result in serious bodily injury or death;
- He or she was not a leader or organizer of others in the offense and was not involved in a continuing criminal enterprise; and
- He or she has cooperated with the government in truthfully providing prosecutors with all of the information and evidence that he or she has concerning the crime.
Fortunately, the fact that a defendant doesn’t have useful information to provide to the government, won’t keep a defendant from qualifying for this exception. Finally, only those who are convicted of certain types of crimes are eligible for the safety valve, namely those that involve:
- The manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance prohibited under 21. U.S.C. 841;
- The possession of a controlled substance, which is prohibited under 21 U.S.C. 844;
- Importing or exporting a controlled substance, as prohibited under 21 U.S.C. 960; or
- Attempting or conspiring to commit one of these acts, which is prohibited under both 21 U.S.C. 846 and 21 U.S.C. 963.
To qualify for the safety valve exception, a defendant must be convicted under one of these five statutes.
Contact Our Legal Team Today
Please contact dedicated Miami federal crime attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at 305-670-9919 to learn more about your pending charges and the consequences of conviction. You can also reach a member of our team by sending us an online message containing your contact information and a brief description of your case.