Criminal Law

Victim-Related Adjustments - Adjustments

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November 1, 2005GUIDELINES MANUAL§3A1.2

Subsection (b) applies to offenses involving an unusually vulnerable victim in which the defendant knows or should have known of the victim’s unusual vulnerability. The adjustment would apply, for example, in a fraud case in which the defendant marketed an ineffective cancer cure or in a robbery in which the defendant selected a handicapped victim. But it would not apply in a case in which the defendant sold fraudulent securities by mail to the general public and one of the victims happened to be senile. Similarly, for example, a bank teller is not an unusually vulnerable victim solely by virtue of the teller’s position in a bank.

Do not apply subsection (b) if the factor that makes the person a vulnerable victim is incorporated in the offense guideline. For example, if the offense guideline provides an enhancement for the age of the victim, this subsection would not be applied unless the victim was unusually vulnerable for reasons unrelated to age.

3. The adjustments from subsections (a) and (b) are to be applied cumulatively. Do not, however, apply subsection (b) in a case in which subsection (a) applies unless a victim of the offense was unusually vulnerable for reasons unrelated to race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.

4. If an enhancement from subsection (b) applies and the defendant’s criminal history includes a prior sentence for an offense that involved the selection of a vulnerable victim, an upward departure may be warranted.

Background: Subsection (a) reflects the directive to the Commission, contained in Section 280003 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, to provide an enhancement of not less than three levels for an offense when the finder of fact at trial determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a hate crime motivation (i.e., a primary motivation for the offense was the race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of the victim). To avoid unwarranted sentencing disparity based on the method of conviction, the Commission has broadened the application of this enhancement to include offenses that, in the case of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, the court at sentencing determines are hate crimes.

Subsection (b)(2) implements, in a broader form, the instruction to the Commission in section 6(c)(3) of Public Law 105-184.

Historical Note:: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendment 245); November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 344); November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 454); November 1, 1995 (see Appendix C, amendment 521); November 1, 1997 (see Appendix C, amendment 564); November 1, 1998 (see Appendix C, amendment 587); November 1, 2000 (see Appendix C, amendment 595).

§3A1.2. Official Victim

(Apply the greatest):

(a) If (1) the victim was (A) a government officer or employee; (B) a former government officer or employee; or (C) a member of the immediate family of a person described in subdivision (A) or (B); and (2) the offense of conviction was motivated by such status, increase by 3 levels.

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