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Federal Sentencing Archives

Feds vote to reduce drug sentences

On April 10, 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to amend the federal sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug charges. Read the press release here. In general, the amendment would work a two level reduction in current offense levels based on the amount of the particular drug involved.

Supreme Court Upends Sentencing Rules

On June 17, 2013 the US Supreme Court upended 12 years of sentencing law and procedure when it decided Alleyne v. United States. In Alleyne the defendant had been convicted of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence - here robbery for which he was also convicted. Federal criminal law proscribes a 5 year mandatory minimum for this offense. The five year minimum is increased to a seven year minimum if the firearm used in relation to the offense was "brandished." Alleyne's jury verdict supported only that he had used the firearm. At his sentencing the judge found that he had also brandished the firearm thereby increasing the mandatory minimum sentence to seven years. Alleyne objected and argued that the jury was required to find he "brandished" the firearm beyond a reasonable doubt before he could be exposed to the longer seven year mandatory minimum. appealed after the judge sentenced him to the seven year mandatory minimum.

Supreme Court Reverses Ninth Circuit on ACCA

The Supreme Court recently reversed the Ninth Circuit in an important case involving the proper application of the Armed Career Criminal Act. The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) provides for a 15 year mandatory minimum sentence for federal criminal defendants who have 3 prior convictions for a "violent felony" or "serious drug offense." It can further aggravate a sentence beyond the 15 year minimum under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines by artificially increasing both the client's base offense level and elevating their criminal history category.

Supreme Court to Review Len Bias cases

In recent local news an Oregon man was sentenced to twenty years in prison after being found guilty this past January of distributing heroin that resulted in another person's death. Prosecuted under the federal "Len Bias" law , the case was the first of its kind to go to trial in the District of Oregon.

SCOTUS to hear challenge to mandatory minimum sentences

On October 5, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court graned certiorari in Alleyne v. United States. The issue before the court is one that lower courts have struggled with since the Court's 2000 decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey. Apprendi held, that any fact other than a prior conviction that is used by a court to increase a defendfant's sentence beyond the usual statutory maximum had to be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Up until the decision, judges had wide latitutde at sentencing to decide facts themselves, often at standards less than reasonable doubt, which would authorize significantly enhanced sentences.

What a long strange trip it still is...

LSD prosecutions, although rare, do occur in the District of Oregon. Those under threat of federal prosecution for a federal drug offense involving LSD need to be aware of the complex issues involved in the relationship between the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and statutory mandatory minimums in LSD offense cases. Retaining an experienced federal criminal defense attorney early on is a critically important step.

Supreme Court to decide whether reduced crack sentencing provisions apply retroactively

Today the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases to resolve a split in the federal circuits on the issue of whether the provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA) apply to defendants whose offenses occurred before the law was enacted but were sentenced after the law's effective date.

9th Circuit refuses to remand obvious sentencing error

In a stunning and disappointing opinion yesterday, a divided panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals let stand the flawed sentence of Isaias Gonzalez-Aparicio. Mr. Gonzalez-Aparicio was convicted after pleading guilty to the crime of attempting to re-enter the United States after previously being deported.

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