Federal Sentencing Guidelines (Part 4)

by | Dec 25, 2018 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Court continued: Experience has shown that, although the interpretation proffered by Justice Sotomayor’s concurring opinion in Freeman could be one permissible reading of §3582(c)(2), as a systemic, structural matter the system Congress put in place is best implemented by the interpretation confirmed in this case. The Government’s counterarguments—that allowing defendants with Type-C agreements to seek reduced sentences under §3582(c)(2) would deprive the Government of a benefit of its bargain, namely, the defendant’s agreement to a particular sentence; and that allowing courts to reduce the sentences of defendants like Hughes would be inconsistent with one of the Commission’s policy statements—are unpersuasive.

Hughes is eligible for relief under §3582(c)(2). The District Court accepted his Type-C agreement after concluding that a 180-month sentence was consistent with the Guidelines, and then calculated Hughes’ sentencing range and imposed a sentence it deemed “compatible” with the Guidelines. The sentencing range was thus a basis for the sentence imposed. And that range has since been lowered by the Commission.  The District Court has discretion to decide whether to reduce Hughes’ sentence after considering the §3553(a) factors and the Commission’s relevant policy statements. P. 14. 849 F. 3d 1008, reversed and remanded.

Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch joined in Justice Kennedy’s opinion. Justice Sotomayor filed a separate concurring opinion. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissent and was joined by Justices Alito and Thomas. Justices Thomas and Alito tend to be the most likely justices to side with the government. Justice Gorsuch, the newest justice at the time of this opinion, joined the more moderate majority here.

The claim that the Government was denied a benefit of their bargain is not persuasive since the government is supposed to do justice as opposed to being a private advocate. The Sentencing Commission’s decision to lower the Guidelines range represents what is supposed to be a sentencing range that is consistent with the administration of justice.