U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently issued a memorandum regarding the U.S. Attorney’s Office charging of federal crimes and sentencing. The new memo basically supersedes the previous policy of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Aschcroft’s policies on charging and sentencing sought more uniformity and less discretion. Holder’s policy appears to recognize that each case and each defendant are different so more discretion and “individual assessment” are appropriate when considering the charges and sentencing enhacements.
The prior policy of the government was to charge the most serious crime(s) that can be considered consistent with the defendant’s conduct and likely to obtain a conviction. The new policy appears to encourage prosecutors to take a closer look into the characteristics of the individual defendant and the case to see if a departure from the most serious charges and sentencing enhancements may be warranted.