Attorney General Sessions Issues Charging and Sentencing Guidelines to Federal Prosecutors

On May 10th, Attorney General Sessions sent a follow-up memo to his March 8th opening memo to all federal prosecutors laying out the DOJ’s charging and sentencing policies.[i] In this memo, Sessions specifically outlined two directives for federal prosecutors.[ii] First, Sessions’ elevated the tone of his previous memo and reaffirmed the DOJ’s core principle that “prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses.”[iii] These most serious offenses, he continued, are those that “carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including” a return to mandatory minimum sentences.[iv] Second, Sessions’ imposed a requirement on all prosecutors to disclose all the facts impacting the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimums in each case to the sentencing courts. Sessions further instituted the requirement that prosecutors receive supervisory approval prior to sentencing departure or variance and document the reasoning in the file.[v]


Simply, Sessions’ directives appear to be that prosecutors should charge suspects with the most serious offense they can prove. “The effects of [this memo’s directives] are likely to be felt most immediately in the narcotics context, where federal mandatory minimums established by Congress can be harsh for even first-time offenders because the sentences are dictated based on drug type and quantity.”[vi]


What this means for the prosecution of white-collar crimes still remains unclear. However, these memos clearly indicate that the focus continues to shift away from white-collar crimes and towards violent crimes and drug crimes. The re-imposition of an emphasis on mandatory minimum demonstrates further where this administration plans to focus its efforts.


Read the memo here:


We will continue to monitor this and provide updates as they become available.


[i]Memorandum from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Department Charging and Sentencing (May 10, 2017).

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id. ¶ 2.

[iv]Id. ¶ 2.

[v]Id. ¶ 4.

[vi]Laura Jarrett and Eugene Scott, “AG Sessions Paves Way for Stricter Sentencing in Criminal Cases,” CNN, May 12, 2017.

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