Legal Memorandum: Sentence Reduction in a Crack Cocaine Offense

Issue: What is the controlling law for considering sentence reduction in a federal crack cocaine offense?

Area of Law: Criminal Law
Keywords: Sentence reduction; Controlling law; Federal crack cocaine offense
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 552 U.S. 38; 552 U.S. 85; 472 F.3d 1167
Cited Statutes: U.S.C. title 18 § 3582(c)(2); 28 U.S.C. 994(o); 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), § 3553(b), § 3582(c)(2); Guidelines policy statement Guidelines § 1B1.10
Date: 05/01/2008

Section 3582(c)(2) of U.S.C. title 18 provides as follows:

[I]n the case of a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(o), upon motion of the defendant . . . the court may reduce the term of imprisonment, after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.


Guidelines § 1B1.10 is the Guidelines policy statement that implements 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).  Subsection (c) of the policy statement lists amendments that are covered by the policy statement.  One of the amendments listed is Guidelines Amendment 706, as amended by Amendment 711.  This Amendment reduced the Base Offense Level for crack cocaine offenses

Previously, the court was required to treat the Guidelines as mandatory, under the controlling law at that time.  Since then, the Supreme Court has clarified its holding in Booker that the Guidelines in their mandatory form are unconstitutional and—by severing 18 U.S.C. § 3553(b)—are “effectively advisory.”  See United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 222 (2005).  These subsequent Supreme Court cases clarifying Booker Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338 (2007), Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38 (2007), and Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U.S. 85 (2007),—have altered the sentencing landscape, such that the Guidelines […]

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