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Amendment doesn't affect sentence

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Even though the terms of a defendant's plea agreement didn't prevent him from filing a motion to reduce his sentence, he is ineligible for the reduction under 18 U.S.C. Section 3582(c)(2) because his sentence wasn't affected by an amendment to the sentencing guidelines, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed today.

In United States of America v. John Q. Monroe, No. 08-2945, John Monroe appealed the District Court's denial of his motion for a reduction in the length of his sentence under Section 3582(c)(2). He had pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base and was sentenced to 168 months in prison. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 240 months if he was convicted under the charge, which became his "guideline sentence." The downward departure was based on Monroe's cooperation.

After he was sentenced, Amendment 706 to the sentencing guidelines took effect and reduced the base offense levels for drug offenses involving cocaine base by two levels. The District Court denied Monroe's motion for a sentence reduction without discussing the applicability of it to him, but it noted that a reduction wasn't appropriate.

Before ruling on if the amendment applied to Monroe's case, the Circuit Court determined that his plea agreement didn't prevent him from filing his motion. It determined that his motion for a reduction wasn't an appeal or collateral attack, as those were not allowed under the terms of his plea agreement. The federal judges disagreed with the government that motions brought under Section 3582(c)(2) are in essence collateral attacks, citing United States v. Chavez-Salias, 337 F.3d 1170 (10th Cir. 2003).

The evidence in the instant case doesn't show Monroe agreed to give up his right to seek a reduction in the length of his sentence based on a retroactive change in the sentencing guidelines, nor does it show the parties meant for Section 3582(c)(2) motions to be considered collateral attacks, wrote Judge Kenneth Ripple.

Even though he could bring the motion under the terms of his plea agreement, the District Court was correct in finding the amendment didn't apply to Monroe. He's ineligible for the reduction because Section 3582(c)(2) only permits the District Court to modify a sentence where the applicable sentencing range had been lowered. The amendment had no effect on Monroe's case because he was sentenced in accordance to the mandatory minimum sentence, rather than with the sentencing range set up in the guidelines, wrote the judge. The Circuit judges concluded their holding in United States v. Poole, 550 F.3d 676 (7th Circ. 2008), decided after briefs were filed in the instant case, is determinative.

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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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