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U.S. Department of Justice - Shifting Priorities? U.S. Department of Justice - Shifting Priorities?

U.S. Department of Justice - Shifting Priorities?

Since being sworn in as attorney general in February, Jeff Sessions has presided over a number of key changes in the priorities of the Department of Justice ("Department"). Those changes culminated this week when Sessions issued a memorandum to all federal prosecutors instructing them to focus their efforts on charging “the most serious, readily provable offense.” In other words, “those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.” (Reference)
Sessions’ announcement specifically reverses a number of Obama Administration policies, most notably in the area of charging and sentencing low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Sessions’ memorandum also outlines a stricter adherence by the Department to the Sentencing Guidelines, which likely means higher sentencing recommendations for defendants across the board. This shift is a return by the Department to the era of John Ashcroft’s leadership, when prosecutors were likewise instructed to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense or offenses that are supported by the facts of the case.” (Reference)
It is unclear exactly what this shift in policy will mean for defendants in the white collar arena, as most of the Attorney General’s focus to date has been on drug trafficking and violent crime cases. However, this new tough-on-crime approach is likely to impact defendants seeking to negotiate favorable pre-indictment dispositions (including deferred and non-prosecution agreements) as well as defendants requesting sentences below the advisory range outlined by the Sentencing Guidelines. Under the Attorney General’s new guidance, prosecutors are specifically exhorted that, in “most cases, recommending a sentence within the advisory guideline range will be appropriate,” and any departure from the Sentencing Guidelines will require supervisory approval. 
For more information on this new guidance from the Department, contact Matt Fornshell or another member of Ice Miller’s White Collar Defense & Investigations Team.
This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
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