Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Sentence reduction relief unavailable where a statutory maximum displaces defendant's Guidelines range

Applying the Supreme Court's reasoning in Koons v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 1783 (2018), the Third Circuit, in United States v. Rivera-Cruz, Appeal No. 17-3448 (Sept. 24, 2018), ruled that a defendant is ineligible for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) where the statutory maximum sentence for his drug offense displaced his much higher Guidelines range. Relying on Koons, the Court found that Rivera-Cruz's sentence was not "based on" a Guidelines range where his Guidelines range of 324 to 405 months' imprisonment was set aside by the statutory maximum term of 240 months imprisonment. Having dropped out of the case, the displaced Guidelines range played no part in forming the basis of the district court's sentence, even where the district court explicitly referred to the initial Guidelines' calculation before announcing its sentencing decision. The Court found that the district court's reference to the original Guidelines range was made for the limited purpose of determining the number of offense levels by which to depart. The district court further specified that its reference to the Guidelines' range was done solely for the purpose of complying with Third Circuit precedent regarding the three-step sentencing process and not for purposes of reconsidering the range. Accordingly, the Court held that Rivera-Cruz did not qualify for a sentence reduction under § 3582(c)(2) because his sentence was not "based on" a Guidelines range.

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