Background: The reduction of offense level provided by this section recognizes legitimate societal interests. For several reasons, a defendant who clearly demonstrates acceptance of responsibility for his offense by taking, in a timely fashion, the actions listed above (or some equivalent action) is appropriately given a lower offense level than a defendant who has not demonstrated acceptance of responsibility.
Subsection (a) provides a 2-level decrease in offense level. Subsection (b) provides an additional 1-level decrease for a defendant at offense level 16 or greater prior to operation of subsection (a) who both qualifies for a decrease under subsection (a) and has assisted authorities in the investigation or prosecution of his own misconduct by taking the steps specified in subsection (b). Such a defendant has accepted responsibility in a way that ensures the certainty of his just punishment in a timely manner, thereby appropriately meriting an additional reduction. Subsection (b) does not apply, however, to a defendant whose offense level is level 15 or lower prior to application of subsection (a). At offense level 15 or lower, the reduction in the guideline range provided by a 2-level decrease in offense level under subsection (a) (which is a greater proportional reduction in the guideline range than at higher offense levels due to the structure of the Sentencing Table) is adequate for the court to take into account the factors set forth in subsection (b) within the applicable guideline range.
Section 401(g) of Public Law 108–21 directly amended subsection (b), Application Note 6 (including adding the last paragraph of that application note), and the Background Commentary, effective April 30, 2003.
Historical Note:: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective January 15, 1988 (see Appendix C, amendment 46); November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendment 258); November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 351); November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 459); April 30, 2003 (see Appendix C, amendment 649).