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August 9, 2010

Seeking "on-the-ground" reports on what is going on with crack sentencings

It has now been almost two weeks since the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, and almost a full week since the FSA became law.  Though I have now seen lots of editorials from large and small papers praising the modification of crack mandatory sentencing provisions, I have yet to see a single story about how the new law is starting to impact actual crack sentencings.

There is a practical reason I am in a rush to figure all this out: there are, on average, over 100 crack sentencings in federal court every week.  And I had been hearing that a whole lot of crack sentencings had been put on hold after the Senate passed the FSA way back in March.  Further, the US Sentencing Commission now has less than three months to conform the crack guidelines to the intricate (and not always pro-defendant) provisions of the FSA.  So I wonder is there a rush to get sentencings done now, or is there more delay, or does this vary district-to-district and courtroom-to-courtroom?

I hope folks might use the comments or send me e-mail with any and all notable post-FSA-enactment crack sentencing reports.  Thanks!

August 9, 2010 at 01:09 PM | Permalink


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I had a very complicated, post-trial, SDNY sentencing on 7/30 (before the President signed the bill). Judge Stephen C. Robinson--who's resigning to return to private practice this Wednesday--used the 18:1 ratio. It reallly didn't make a whole lot of difference, as the guidelines were still off the charts, calling for mandatory life. He gave a non-guidelines sentence of 25 years.

Posted by: Alex E. | Aug 9, 2010 4:32:38 PM

From my perspective here in the Rockies, there is a rush to resolve crack cases, largely where the defendant faces all of those goofy guidelines enhancements if he waits until the law is in effect. Many cases are being "fairly" resolved in anticipation of the lower ratio, without much discussion of how the guidelines enhancements will apply. Line attorneys from both sides of the fence are not looking forward to debating the meaning of "impulse, fear, friendship or affection," in the context of another ill-conceived and poorly-defined concept -- "organizer/leader."

Posted by: VG | Aug 9, 2010 6:55:19 PM

I am a sentencing consultant and am researching this issue. I am aware of a few cases in which judges have used the 1:1 ratio at sentencing and I am looking for others. Can anyone cite a specific case in which a judge has used the 1:1 ratio at sentencing?


Posted by: Tess Lopez | Aug 11, 2010 7:11:36 PM

To refine the question a bit (to understand how/why the new law would have any impact so soon after its enactment), has anyone had a judge apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactively? Any opinion issued to that effect?

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