Criminal Law

The Basic Approach - Violations of Probation and Supervised Release

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Ch. 7 Pt. AGUIDELINES MANUALNovember 1, 2005

revocation of supervised release is limited by statute to not more than five years for persons convicted of Class A felonies, except for certain Title 21 drug offenses; not more than three years for Class B felonies; not more than two years for Class C or D felonies; and not more than one year for Class E felonies. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3).

Given the relatively narrow ranges of incarceration available in many cases, combined with the potential difficulty in obtaining information necessary to determine specific offense characteristics, the Commission felt that it was undesirable at this time to develop guidelines that attempt to distinguish, in detail, the wide variety of behavior that can lead to revocation. Indeed, with the relatively low ceilings set by statute, revocation policy statements that attempted to delineate with great particularity the gradations of conduct leading to revocation would frequently result in a sentence at the statutory maximum penalty.

Accordingly, the Commission determined that revocation policy statements that provided for three broad grades of violations would permit proportionally longer terms for more serious violations and thereby would address adequately concerns about proportionality, without creating the problems inherent in the second option.

4. The Basic Approach

The revocation policy statements categorize violations of probation and supervised release in three broad classifications ranging from serious new felonious criminal conduct to less serious criminal conduct and technical violations. The grade of the violation, together with the violator’s criminal history category calculated at the time of the initial sentencing, fix the applicable sentencing range.

The Commission has elected to develop a single set of policy statements for revocation of both probation and supervised release. In reviewing the relevant literature, the Commission determined that the purpose of supervision for probation and supervised release should focus on the integration of the violator into the community, while providing the supervision designed to limit further criminal conduct. Although there was considerable debate as to whether the sanction imposed upon revocation of probation should be different from that imposed upon revocation of supervised release, the Commission has initially concluded that a single set of policy statements is appropriate.

5. A Concluding Note

The Commission views these policy statements for revocation of probation and supervised release as the first step in an evolutionary process. The Commission expects to issue revocation guidelines after judges, probation officers, and practitioners have had an opportunity to apply and comment on the policy statements.

In developing these policy statements, the Commission assembled two outside working groups of experienced probation officers representing every circuit in the nation, officials from the Probation Division of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the General Counsel’s office at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and the U.S. Parole Commission. In addition, a number of federal judges, members of the Criminal Law and Probation Administration Committee of the Judicial Conference, and representatives from the Department of Justice and federal and community defenders provided considerable input into this effort.

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