Sentence Reductions (Part 1)

by | Dec 15, 2018 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Assault | Criminal Defense LawyerOn June 4, 2018, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Koons v. U.S. The principal issue before the Court was what standard applies in order to qualify for a sentence reduction under §3582(c)(2).

Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Alito held in relevant part as follows: The five petitioners pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges that subjected them to mandatory minimum sentences under 21 U. S. C. §841(b)(1). Before imposing their sentences, the District Court calculated their advisory Guidelines ranges. But because the top end of the Guidelines ranges fell below the mandatory minimums, the court concluded that the mandatory minimums superseded the Guidelines ranges. After discarding these ranges, the court departed downward from the mandatory minimums under 18 U. S. C. §3553(e) to reflect petitioners’ substantial assistance to the Government in prosecuting other drug offenders.

In settling on the final sentences, the court considered the relevant “substantial assistance factors” set out in the Guidelines, but it did not consider the original Guidelines ranges that it had earlier discarded. After petitioners were sentenced, the Sentencing Commission amended the Guidelines and reduced the base offense levels for certain drug offenses, including those for which petitioners were convicted.

Petitioners sought sentence reductions under §3582(c)(2), which makes defendants eligible if they were sentenced “based on a sentencing range” that was later lowered by the Sentencing Commission. The courts below held that petitioners were not eligible because they could not show that their sentences were “based on” the now-lowered Guidelines ranges.

The fact that the petitioners cooperated with the government against other drug dealers has now been disclosed and disseminated via this published court opinion. It creates safety concerns for each of them not just as inmates, but for the rest of their lives after they are released from prison. Since they all lost on appeal, they likely wish they had not pursued the appeal and thereby kept their cooperation with the government relatively unknown.