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July 20, 2007

Third Circuit expounds on crack sentencing after Booker

Last year, as noted here, the Third Circuit in Gunter held that "district courts may consider the crack/powder cocaine differential in the Guidelines as a factor, but not a mandate, in the post-Booker sentencing process."  The exact meaning and reach of Gunter was not perfectly clear, and today in US v. Ricks, No. 05-4832 (3d Cir. July 20, 2006) (available here), the Third Circuit seeks to clarify matters.  These concluding thoughts from the Ricks panel provide the decision's highlights:

The District Court understandably wanted to apply a fairer drug quantity ratio than the current Guidelines allow, and it logically looked to the recommendations of the Sentencing Commission for guidance in doing so. Indeed, as a matter of policy, we agree with the District Court that a 100-to-1 ratio leads to unjust sentences, and we encourage Congress to revisit the issue and heed the recommendations of the Commission.  Meaningful consideration of the ยง 3553(a) factors, however, does not permit trial courts to categorically reject a provision of the Guidelines that Congress has endorsed.

We conclude that when a district court imposes a below- Guidelines sentence for a crime involving crack, the record must demonstrate that the court focused on individual, case-specific factors.  Because courts may not replace the 100-to-1 ratio with one of their choosing, we will vacate the sentences of Michael and Marc Ricks and remand to the District Court for resentencing in accordance with this opinion.

As the Ricks panel notes in a footnote, this issue we be addressed by the Supreme Court in Kimbrough this coming Term.

July 20, 2007 at 05:33 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Funny, I thought the guidelines were now advisory. Guess not.

Posted by: Bruce | Jul 21, 2007 2:52:08 AM

Yeah, somehow, judges aren't just allowed to treat that 100-1 ration as what the Supreme Court says it is: advice. How'd it get to be mandatory again?

Posted by: David in NY | Jul 23, 2007 3:53:08 PM

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