District of Columbia Sentencing Commission

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Sentencing Commission FAQs


Quarter 1:
Where there are two convictions, one for a violent offense and one for a non-violent offense, should the sentences be imposed concurrently or consecutively?

Multiple crimes of violence where there are multiple victims in multiple events, or multiple victims in one event, or one victim in multiple events for offenses sentenced on the same day, must be sentenced consecutively in order to be compliant with the Guidelines. Multiple offenses that are not crimes of violence in a single event must be imposed concurrently in order to be compliant with the Guidelines. In almost all other cases, the court has discretion to impose sentences either consecutively or concurrently, including offenses sentenced on different days. See Chapter 6 of the Guidelines.

What is an “event,” according to the Sentencing Guidelines? How does the definition of the word “event” affect sentencing in D.C.?

Under the D.C. Guidelines, only the most serious conviction arising out of a single event is scored for criminal history purposes. Offenses are part of a single event if they were committed at the same time and place or have the same nucleus of facts. Offenses are part of multiple events if they were committed at different times and places or have a different nucleus of facts. For example, if a defendant was convicted of both Robbery and Carrying a Pistol without a License (CPWL) in connection with a single Armed Robbery, only the Robbery conviction would be counted because the two convictions arose out of a single event and Robbery is more serious than CPWL. However, a Robbery conviction and a CPWL conviction arising out of multiple events would both be scored. See Guidelines § 2.2.5.


Quarter 2:
How do statutory enhancements affect the application of the Guidelines?

There are statutory provisions that do not change the sentencing type options in a box, but expand the prison range that is available in the box. These include enhancements based on the status of the victim (e.g., senior citizen victims and bias-related offenses), repeat offenders, third strike laws, statutory aggravating factors for murder and sex offenses, drug- and gun-free zones, selling drugs to minors, and committing a felony while on release. If an enhancement provision applies, the top of the Guidelines range is increased by the same percentage or amount as the statutory multiplier (percentage increase) or cap (increase by number of years). See Chapter 4 and Appendix H of the Guidelines.

How are out-of-District drug offenses scored for criminal history purposes?

Out-of-District drug offenses are some of the most difficult to score, because jurisdictions have very different ways of organizing drug offenses. If the scorer does not know the drug, and/or if the drug offense statute includes possession in a jurisdiction where marijuana has not been decriminalized, the offense should not be scored. If the scorer knows that the drug was not marijuana, but does not know the specific offense in question, the scorer would score the offense as the least severe, which in D.C. is a misdemeanor. If the scorer knows the drug in question, and the specific offense in question (i.e., whether it was a conviction for distribution, manufacture, possession with intent to distribute, or possession), the scorer can score the offense accordingly. See Guidelines § 2.2.6.


Quarter 3:
For criminal history scoring purposes, does a prior conviction count if it was for an offense that no longer exists?

A conviction under a statute that was repealed so that the conduct was fully de-criminalized is not counted. A conviction under a statute that was repealed and fully replaced (i.e., all of the conduct criminalized under the old statute or statutes remains criminalized under the new statute or statutes) is counted in the same group as the closest comparable offense in the current code. See Guidelines § 2.2.8.


Quarter 4:
How should the Court impose a compliant long-split sentence where there is an applicable mandatory minimum that is higher than the low end of the range (e.g., where
the offense is Possession of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence (PFCOV) and the applicable range is 48-96)?

PFCOV carries a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, meaning that the Court cannot lawfully impose a sentence that is lower than 60 months. In order to impose a compliant long-split sentence under the Guidelines in this example, the Court would impose any amount of time between 60 and 96 months, and suspend all but 60 months. See Guidelines § 3.5.

If a defendant is convicted of a felony offense while serving a period of incarceration, must the sentence imposed in the instant offense run consecutive to the sentence the defendant is currently serving?

Yes. Under the Guidelines, a new sentence must run consecutively to any sentence being served at the time the new offense was committed. See Guidelines § 6.1.

Do convictions that have been set aside under the Youth Rehabilitation Act count towards criminal history under the Guidelines?

Yes. Under the Guidelines, Youth Rehabilitation Act (and Federal Youth Corrections Act) sentences are counted like any other conviction, without regard to whether the conviction has been set aside or not. See Guidelines § 2.2.10.