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Substantial Assistance: An Empirical Yardstick Gauging Equity in Current Federal Policy and Practice

NCJ Number
L D Maxfield; J H Kramer
Date Published
35 pages
In 1986, the U.S. Sentencing Commission was directed to create sentence reduction incentives that would decrease sentences below the guideline range for offenders who assist in the investigation or prosecuting of another person who has committed a criminal offense; the commission's response to this mandate took the form of a guideline policy statement on Substantial Assistance to Authorities.
The policy statement is not clear on several issues. Factors to be used by the prosecutor prior to sentencing to determine whether the cooperation of a defendant is substantial are not addressed, and the authority to move for a sentencing departure is limited to the prosecution. In addition, substantial assistance is linked to cooperation concerning the investigation or prosecution of another person and not all substantial assistance is equal. The policy statement is assessed in terms of these issues, with consideration paid to type of assistance provided, benefits and results of assistance, defendant role and access to knowledge, legally irrelevant factors, and prosecutorial discretion. The authors conclude the policy statement contains inequities that require further clarification and research. Methods used by the commission to evaluate the substantial assistance policy statement are outlined in an appendix. 43 footnotes and 12 exhibits