Although sentencing of drug offenders in federal courts is complicated by minimum penalties, which trump the guidelines, the mandatory penalties can be avoided if offenders receive substantial assistance departures. Nagel and Schulhofer contend that substantial assistance departures are used to mitigate the sentences of "sympathetic" and "salvageable" offenders. The authors tested this contention, using data on drug offenders facing mandatory minimum sentences in three U.S. district courts. Results reveal that substantial assistance departures are used to reduce the sentences of certain types of offenders facing mandatory minimum penalties: females, U.S. citizens, employed persons, those with some college, those with dependent children, and those who played a minor or minimal role in the offense. Findings also revealed that racial-ethnic differences among male offenders were masked by the racial-ethnic similarities among female offenders in the full model and that the effect of gender was confined to Black and Hispanic offenders.
- federal sentencing guidelines
- mandatory minimum penalties
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine