Tuesday, August 16, 2011

3582 Reduction Requires Reliance on Guidelines

US v. Brown: Brown pleaded guilty to maintaining a crack house in 2005. As part of a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) binding plea agreement, he agreed that the "appropriate sentence in this case is incarceration for not less than 180 months and not more than 240 months." He was sentenced to 210 months in prison. In 2009, Brown filed a motion for a reduced sentence under 3582(c)(2) and the revised crack guidelines. The district court granted the motion and reduced his sentence to 180 months. The Government appealed, arguing that the district court lacked the jurisdiction to reduce a sentence imposed as part of a binding plea agreement.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit agreed and vacated Brown's reduced sentence. The Supreme Court recently dealt with the issue in Freeman v, United States. However, as the Fourth recognized, that decision was not a hallmark of clarity. Four justices held that reduced sentences are always available in binding plea cases, while four others concluded (in dissent) that such reductions are never available. Justice Sotomayor took a middle approach, concluding that reductions were unavailable in such cases, unless the plea agreement specifically relies upon a particular Guideline range. Concluding that Sotomayor's opinion controls, the court concludes that Brown's plea agreement does not rely on a particular Guideline range. Therefore, the district court lacked the authority to reduce his sentence.

No comments: