As every criminal defense lawyer knows, there are some very draconian minimum mandatory sentences in Federal criminal court. There are federal minimum mandatory sentences for certain drug offenses, firearm offenses, and for defendants who have certain convictions. There are two ways to break the minimum mandatory sentence, which then allows a judge to sentence you below the minimum mandatory. The first is called “substantial assistance.” Basically, if you snitch and the government wants your information, uses your information, and they determine that it was worthy of a sentence below the minimum mandatory, they can file a substantial assistant motion and if granted by the judge, the minimum mandatory would no longer apply. You can only get less than the minimum mandatory sentence if the prosecutor files the motion. If they decide not to file the motion, the judge must sentence you to the minimum mandatory sentence up to the maximum sentence. But what if you don’t want to snitch? What if you don’t have any information that the government is interested in? There is one more option that will allow the judge to sentence you below the minimum mandatory sentence: Safety Valve.
What is Safety Valve?
The “Safety Valve” provision is a provision of law codified in 18 United States Code §3553(f). It specifically allows a judge to sentence you below the minimum mandatory required by law. However, you must be eligible. There is also a two level reduction in the sentencing guidelines under United States Sentencing Guidelines §2D1.1(b)(17).