Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

United States v. Smith

By
Defendants in these consolidated appeals pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute “crack” cocaine. Because Defendants each had a prior felony drug conviction, they faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. This mandatory minimum sentence was greater than the high end of Defendants’ respective advisory guideline ranges, so 20 years became Defendants’ “guideline sentence.” Due to their substantial assistance to the Government in its investigation or prosecution of others, however, the district court granted Defendants a downward departure pursuant to a statutory exception to their statutorily-mandated minimum sentence. The district court reduced C.D.’s sentence from 240 months to 180 months, E.F.’s sentence from 240 months to 170 months, and G.H.’s sentence from 240 months to 151 months. Defendants claimed 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2) provided an additional statutory exception to their original 20-year mandatory minimum sentence, and so unsuccessfully moved the district court to further reduce their sentences. After Defendants’ sentencings, the Sentencing Commission lowered by two offense levels the guideline sentencing ranges under which Defendants would have been sentenced but for 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A)’s mandatory minimum sentence. Under Tenth Circuit precedent, in particular "United States v. White," (765 F.3d 1240 (10th Cir. 2014)), Defendants were not “sentenced based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission.” Rather, the district court sentenced Defendants “based on” a mandatory minimum established by Congress of 20-years’ imprisonment, reduced by a departure as authorized by Congress “so as to reflect [their] substantial assistance.” As such, the Tenth Circuit vacated the district court’s decisions denying Defendants’ respective motions and, consistent with controlling precedent, remanded with instructions to dismiss the motions for want of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law