This page contains Supreme Court rulings -- with summaries of the majority and minority conclusions.
Decided Jun 23, 2011
Case Ruling: FREEMAN v. UNITED STATES
The defendant entered into an agreement with the prosecution to plead guilty to crack cocaine possession. Following this plea, the sentencing guidelines federal judges must consider when they impose prison terms were retroactively revised to lower the prison time required in crimes involving cocaine base [crack cocaine], which were higher than those for powder cocaine. The law permitted defendants who were sentenced based upon the old guideline to seek the lower prison sentence if the guideline was revised downward.
HELD: Delivered by KENNEDY, joined by GINSBURG, BREYER & KAGANThe Court must determine whether this defendant may take advantage of the lowering of the sentencing guidelines for the [crack cocaine] offense he was sentenced for. Even though this defendant was sentenced in accordance with an agreement, the Court finds that district court judges have a duty to consider the sentencing guidelines at all times, includinwg when deciding whether to accept a guilty
plea that is contingent upon one of these agreements. Since the guidelines are the starting point for all sentencing decisions, even a defendant who agrees to a sentence may seek to have his sentence revised after a guidelines change.
CONCURRED: SOTOMAYOR concurs in the judgmentA sentence under one of these agreements is based upon the agreement itself, not on the judge's calculation of the guidelines. However, the agreement in this case expressly used the guidelines sentencing range to establish the term of imprisonment. When an agreement uses the guidelines, a defendant may seek reduction of his prison term based upon a guideline revision.
DISSENT: ROBERTS dissents; joined by SCALIA, THOMAS & ALITOA sentence based upon an agreement is based upon the agreement alone, whether or not the sentencing guidelines were considered, and a defendant so sentenced should not be allowed the opportunity for a sentencing revision when the guidelines are changed.
Participating counts on VoteMatch question 19.
Question 19: Never legalize marijuana
Scores: -2=Strongly oppose; -1=Oppose; 0=neutral; 1=Support; 2=Strongly support.
- Topic: Drugs
- Headline: Sentencing rules change allows crack sentence reductions
- Headline 2: Reduce crack sentences to follow powder-vs.-crack changes
- Headline 3: Sentences should stand despite crack-vs.-powder rule change
- Key for participation codes:
- Sponsorships: p=sponsored; o=co-sponsored; s=signed
- Memberships: c=chair; m=member; e=endorsed; f=profiled; s=scored
- Resolutions: i=introduced; w=wrote; a=adopted
- Cases: w=wrote; j=joined; d=dissented; c=concurred
- Surveys: '+' supports; '-' opposes.
participating in 11-FREEMAN
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