Supreme Court To Hear Crack Cocaine Sentencing Case Tuesday
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a crack cocaine case. The case is Percy Dillon v. U.S., and the issue is whether the two level reduction in federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine implemented a few years ago allows judges, when implementing the reduction, to conduct a complete resentencing.
Many defendants were sentenced to huge terms of imprisonment for crack when the guidelines were mandatory. Since Booker in 2005, they have become discretionary. So when a defendant files a motion to have his or her sentence reduced under the guideline amendment, shouldn't the Judge be allowed to resentence under current law, treating the guidelines as advisory only? Put another way, shouldn't Booker be followed for sentencing modification decisions?
The case could have big ramifications: [More...]
The case has particularly important potential to affect perhaps tens of thousands of new sentencing proceedings for those convicted of dealing in crack cocaine, since the U.S. Sentencing Commission has revised downward the range of sentences for those crimes, and has made those changes retroactive. If judges have no discretion to set a sentence below the minimum in the new range (as they are allowed to do in initial sentencing), many individuals would not be allowed to take advantage of the reductions, or would at best receive significantly less benefit.”
The Third Circuit said no (opinion here.) Percy Dillon says Booker applies to all resentencings where a new sentence is imposed in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). The Justice Department says no. Interestingly, the Supreme Court took the case when there was no split in the circuits. All circuits have held the re-sentencing only allows the granting of the two level reduction. The defendant in this case, a first time offender who got 27 years, is a sympathetic one.
The questions presented:
I. Whether the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are binding when a district court imposes a new sentence pursuant to a revised guideline range under 18 U.S.C. §3582.
II. Whether during a § 3582©(2) sentencing, a district court is required to impose sentence based on an admittedly incorrectly calculated guideline range.
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