Unlocking Sentencing Reduction Opportunities with ‘Amendment 821

Amendment 821, also known as the 2023 Criminal History Retroactive Amendment, marks a significant turning point. Passed by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in April 2023, this amendment introduces transformative changes that have the potential to alter the fates of countless individuals currently serving federal prison sentences.


Amendment 821 and Its Impact

This amendment is poised to bring about substantial changes, primarily through two key modifications:

Part A: Under Section 4A1.1 of the guidelines, Part A revises how criminal history points are calculated. This adjustment affects how prior convictions and other factors are weighed in determining sentencing ranges.

Part B: Part B introduces provision, Section 4C1.1 within Chapter Four, aimed at reducing sentences for defendants with minimal criminal history. It’s worth noting that the emphasis here is on providing relief to those with lesser criminal history involvement.

The overarching impact of these alterations is that they translate into reduced sentences for certain individuals, particularly those convicted of non-violent economic crimes or drug offenses. In essence, Amendment 821 paves the way for reduced sentences, offering the possibility of a brighter future to those currently behind bars. That’s where we can help!


Eligibility for Retroactive Reductions

One of the most remarkable aspects of Amendment 821 is its retroactivity. Conventionally, changes to sentencing guidelines only apply to future cases, impacting individuals sentenced after the effective date of the change. However, Amendment 821 grants the opportunity for some incarcerated individuals to have their sentences reduced under the new rules. This is indeed an exciting development, but the road to eligibility is guided by specific criteria:

Step 1 – Sentenced Before February 1, 2024: The initial criterion is relatively straightforward. To be eligible for a retroactive reduction under Amendment 821, your sentencing must have occurred before February 1, 2024. After this date, new guidelines automatically apply to new cases, negating the need for retroactive applications.

Step 2 – Impact on Your Original Sentence: Once you meet the first requirement, it’s imperative to assess whether your original sentence would be different under the new Amendment 821 rules. This entails a comprehensive review of how your criminal history points were calculated during your initial sentencing. The aim is to determine if the changes brought by Amendment 821 would have placed you in a lower criminal history category or given you a reduced sentencing range.

The Sentencing Commission estimates that around 11,500 incarcerated individuals will benefit from a lower guideline range under the retroactive application of Amendment 821. The average reduction is estimated to be approximately 14 months. However, it’s essential to understand that not everyone will witness a change in their sentence. For this reason, it’s highly recommended to meticulously assess your criminal history points calculation and sentencing report. This review will help determine whether the new guidelines could have affected your sentence length. If your original sentence already falls at the lower end or below the new guideline range, further reduction may not be attainable.

Step 3 – Avoiding Disqualifying Factors: Having met the first two steps, it’s vital to ensure that no disqualifying factors are present in your case. The principal disqualifiers include:

Career Offender Status: If you were sentenced as a ‘career offender’ under Section 4B1.1, you would NOT be eligible for a reduction under Amendment 821.

Crime of Violence: If your offense was categorized as a ‘crime of violence’ under Section 4B1.2, you would be excluded from the retroactive relief.

Aggravating Role: If you received an offense level enhancement for an aggravating role, such as being a leader or organizer under Section 3B1.1, you would be disqualified.

If any of these disqualifying factors apply to your case, they would render you ineligible for a retroactive sentence reduction under Amendment 821.

Step 4 – Filing an Application and Seeking Approval: The final step necessitates the filing of an application or motion requesting a retroactive sentence reduction, followed by securing approval from a federal judge. It’s essential to comprehend that meeting the eligibility criteria on paper isn’t sufficient. Action must be taken to set this process in motion.

The process involves submitting a motion that outlines how you meet the eligibility criteria described in Steps 1-3. This motion also requests the judge to exercise their authority to reduce your sentence under Amendment 821. Subsequently, the judge will scrutinize your motion and make a decision regarding whether to grant the reduction.

It’s important to understand that even if you meet the eligibility criteria, there are no guarantees of approval. The judge may consider additional factors, such as your conduct while incarcerated. Therefore, it’s critical to highlight any evidence of rehabilitation or good behavior in your application. It’s worth noting that if your application is denied, an appeal is possible. Hence, ensuring the correctness and completeness of your application from the outset is of paramount importance.


When Can You Apply for a Reduction?

A key detail to bear in mind is that federal judges are not permitted to commence granting sentence reductions under Amendment 821 until February 1, 2024. Even if you meet the eligibility criteria and submit a motion now, approval cannot occur until after this date. This waiting period is designed to provide courts with ample time to prepare for the expected influx of retroactive reduction applications. But that doesn’t mean you can’t file before then!


In Summary

In summary, if you meet all the eligibility criteria, the earliest date upon which you could receive an approved reduction order is in February 2024. To navigate this intricate process and maximize your chances, contact us to see how we might be able to help you or your loved one. Such guidance can make a significant difference in your pursuit of a reduced sentence.



Understanding the eligibility criteria for retroactive sentence reductions under Amendment 821 is crucial. To recap, you must:

Have been sentenced before February 1, 2024, under the old guidelines.
Possess an original sentence longer than the new guideline range.
Be free of disqualifying factors, such as career offender status.
File a motion and secure approval from a federal judge.
If you meet these criteria, you may qualify for a reduced sentence under Amendment 821’s retroactive provisions. However, to ascertain your eligibility with confidence, it’s essential to contact us at Prisoner Consulting. We can review your case comprehensively and advise you on the most effective approach to pursue a reduction.

Don’t leave this to chance; act now to explore the potential benefits of this legal change for you or your loved one. Our team is here to help with a free initial consultation, ensuring that you don’t spend one additional day behind bars unnecessarily. Our fees are reasonable and affordable, making justice accessible to all.

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