Supreme Court rules sentencing guidelines changes do not affect modification hearings

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] in Dillon v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder] that the court's decision in United States v. Booker [opinion, text] does not provide for special consideration of changes in sentencing guidelines during U.S.C. §3582(c)(2) [text] sentence modification hearings. The court ruled in Booker that federal sentencing guidelines [materials] are advisory only, although they had never ruled on the application to sentence modification hearings. The petitioner argued [JURIST report] that Booker also holds for sentence modification hearings under U.S.S.G. §1B.10 [text], which allows for sentence reduction if the sentencing guidelines have been amended. He argued that in light of Booker, the re-sentencing court could have lowered his sentence beyond the newest sentencing guidelines based on discretionary factors. The court, however, held that Booker's holding does not extend to §3582(c)(2). Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the majority, upheld the decision below stating:

By its terms, §3582(c)(2) does not authorize a sentencing or resentencing proceeding. Instead, it provides for the modif[ication of] a term of imprisonment by giving courts the power to reduce an otherwise final sentence in circumstances specified by the [federal sentencing guidelines] Commission. ... Section 3582(c)(2)'s text, together with its narrow scope, shows that Congress intended to authorize only a limited adjustment to an otherwise final sentence and not a plenary resentencing proceeding.
Justice John Paul Stevens dissented and Justice Samuel Alito took no part in the decision.

Petitioner Percy Dillon was originally sentenced under the federal guidelines to 322 months in prison for drug related offenses. The sentencing commission subsequently reduced the sentencing guidelines for drug related offenses and Dillon filed a pro se motion for sentence reduction pursuant to §3582(c)(2). The district court reduced Dillon's sentence to 277 months, which fell under the revised sentencing guidelines. Dillon appealed the reduction to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld [opinion] Dillon's modified sentence and ruled that Booker does not apply in sentence modification proceedings. The Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] to resolve the issue of Booker's application on retroactive sentence modifications.

 

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