Friday, June 25, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Severely Restricts Scope of Sentence Reduction Proceedings under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

As suggested in this Blog’s May 2009 entry, the Third Circuit’s decision in United States v. Dillon, 572 F.3d 146 (3d Cir. 2009) has, indeed, effectively "ended crack litigation", as the Supreme Court, by a 7-1 vote, affirmed the Third Circuit in Dillon v. United States, No. 09-6338 (U.S. June 17, 2010). In brief, Justice Sotomayor’s majority opinion holds that proceedings brought by a defendant’s motion for sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) are not governed by the same principles as standard plenary sentencing proceedings – notably, application of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005) – but rather are limited to the specific reduction permitted by the Sentencing Commission’s relevant policy statement. The effect of Dillon, in light of the recent two-level reduction for crack offenses in the USSG § 2D1.1 drug tables, is to limit eligibility for that reduction only to defendants whose calculated Sentencing Guidelines range is actually reduced by two levels. Defendants with crack offenses whose Guidelines sentences involved career offender status, a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea, a mandatory minimum with USSG § 5K/§ 3553(e) relief, a sentencing range that remained unchanged after a two-level offense level reduction, or even an obvious Guidelines calculation error in the original sentencing are simply ineligible for § 3582(c)(2) relief.

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