US v. Chambers: In 2005 Chambers was convicted as a career offender to 262 months in prison after being convicted of a crack conspiracy. Two of his prior predicate convictions were for North Carolina drug offenses for which, because of the state’s then-existing guideline scheme, he did not actually face a maximum sentence of more than one year. Under Fourth Circuit law at the time, however, they counted as predicates. More recently, Chambers filed for relief under the First Step Act’s retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act and argued that the district court should correct the original career offender designation in light of Simmons. The district court declined to do so and did not reduce Chambers’ sentence.
A divided Fourth Circuit reversed the district court. The court rejected the Government’s position that the 1SA only allowed the district court to make “statutory Fair Sentencing Act adjustments and preclude[d] it from correcting Guideline errors,” noting that Section 404(b) of the 1SA uses the term “impose” a sentence, rather than “modify” or “reduce.” When imposing a sentence “a court does not simply adjust the statutory minimums; it must also recalculate the Guideline range.” Unlike the language of 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2), there are no limitations on doing do under 3582(c)(1), the mechanism for applying the 1SA. Of particular import in this case was that the change in the law that occurred in Simmons had been made retroactive, so that the career offender designation was “as wrong today as it was in 2005.” The court also explained (in noting Government concessions) that the usual 3553(a) factors apply in 1SA proceedings and that courts may consider a defendant’s post-sentencing conduct in determining whether and to what extent to reduce a sentence.
Congrats to the Defender office in Western NC on the win!