Thursday, January 08, 2009

Recommended Sentence in Plea Agreement Doesn't Prevent Reduction

US v. Dews: This is the first of two recent cases dealing with issues arising from the retroactive application of the amended crack Guidelines.

In this case (actually a pair of consolidated cases), the defendants both pleaded guilty via a plea agreement under FRCrP 11(e)(1)(C). The plea agreement included a recommendation that 168 months in prison, the bottom of the Guideline range, was the appropriate sentence in each case. When the Guidelines were amended and made retroactive, both defendants moved the court to reduce their sentences based on the newly calculated (and lower) Guideline range. The district court declined to do so, concluding that because the plea agreements called for a specific sentence, that sentence was not "based on" the Guidelines.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit rejected that argument and ruled in favor of the defendants. The court concluded that the Guidelines played a substantial role in fashioning the sentences and that neither Rule 11 nor the plea agreements themselves precluded a reduction. Judge Agee dissented and agreed with the district court that the sentences were based on the plea agreement, not the Guidelines.

Congrats to the Maryland FPD office on the win!

UPDATE: The Government sought rehearing in this case, which the court granted, thus vacating this opinion per Local Rule 35(c). However, the case was dismissed as moot before the rehearing took place.

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