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June 15, 2017

DOJ Issues New Memo on Charging and Sentencing Policy

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum establishing the charging and sentencing policy for the Department of Justice (DOJ).  The memo directs prosecutors to charge and pursue the “most serious, readily provable offense,” but acknowledges that there will in fact be circumstances where a strict application of this policy is not warranted and an exception justified.  Any deviation, however, from the general policy must be approved by either the U.S. Attorney, Assistant Attorney General, or a supervisor designated by such; and the reasons must be documented in the file.  The memo specifically rescinded previous DOJ policy which relaxed the policy of charging and pursuing the most serious, readily provable offense with respect to certain drug-related crimes.[1] 

Additionally, the memo affirms, among other things, that prosecutors should seek reasonable sentences, which it states will generally be within the advisory guideline range.

[1] See Department Policy on Charging Mandatory Minimum Sentences and Recidivist Enhancements in Certain Drug Cases (August 12, 2013), and Guidance Regarding § 851 Enhancements in Plea Negotiations (September 24, 2014), issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder.