The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision highlights a quandary that is at the heart of Sentencing Guidelines systems, which is how the courts should interpret the sometimes elusive and abstract notion of Congressional intent.
New York, New York (PRWEB) June 11, 2013
Federal appeals lawyer Stephen N. Preziosi’s latest United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) awareness campaign installment is focusing on Dorsey v. United States, Hill v. United States 132 S. Ct. 2321, in which the Supreme Court held that the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) applies to defendants whose crimes took place prior to the Act coming into force, but were sentenced after that date.
In 2007, the petitioner Hill unlawfully sold 53 grams of crack cocaine, and in 2008, the petitioner Dorsey unlawfully sold 5.5 grams of crack. At the time that both crimes were committed, the un-amended 1986 Anti Drug Abuse Act called for maximum 10-year prison sentences for each defendant.
In November 2010 the FSA came into force, which substantially reduced the disparity between offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1, and therefore, increased the minimum amount of crack cocaine required to trigger a 10-year sentence. Despite this, the District Judges in both cases sentenced the respective defendants to 10-year sentences per the 1986 Anti Drug Abuse Act.
Both Hill and Dorsey appealed on the basis that they ought to receive lower sentences per the FSA, since their sentences were handed down after the Act came into force. The Court of Appeals denied the petition. However, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned the sentence and held that the FSA should apply to defendants who are sentenced after November 2010, even if their crimes were committed before that date.
“In the absence of any clear indication of Congress’ view of whether the FSA should be applied retroactively, the Supreme Court essentially based its decision on two key factors,” commented New York City-based Federal appeals lawyer Stephen N. Preziosi. “The first came from the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, which stated that applicable sentencing guidelines are those that are `in effect on the date the defendant is sentenced’. The second was the view that retroactively applying the FSA would create a new set of sentencing disparities between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences, which the FSA itself was intended to mitigate.”
Added Mr. Preziosi: “The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision highlights a quandary that is at the heart of Sentencing Guidelines systems, which is how the courts should interpret the sometimes elusive and abstract notion of Congressional intent. To that end, while Congress cannot be expected to anticipate every possible argument to which statues will be subjected, this ruling reminds them of how important it is to make their intent as abundantly clear in the statutes themselves. This isn’t to diminish the necessary influence of District Judges, or to turn sentencing hearings into clerical exercises. Rather, it’s to help ensure a clear, reasonable and rational alignment between the will of the people – as expressed by their elected officials in Congress – and the practical application of that will on defendants who are convicted of breaking the law.”
Mr. Preziosi’s full analysis of Dorsey v. United States, Hill v. United States 132 S. Ct. 2321 is available on his firm’s website at http://www.newyorkappellatelawyer.com/fair-sentencing-act-reducing-the-disparity-in-sentencing-between-crack-cocaine-and-powder-cocaine/
For more information or media inquiries, email newyorkappellatelawyer(at)gmail(dot)com or phone (212) 300-3845.
Federal appeals lawyer Stephen N. Preziosi handles criminal appeals in all U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and in New York State Appellate Courts (including Appellate Divisions and the New York Court of Appeals). Whether a case is under the Penal Law in New York State Courts or under Federal Law in the U.S. District Courts, Mr. Preziosi has extensive experience with all types of appellate matters in both the New York State Courts and the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. Mr. Preziosi has pursued appellate cases in the Appellate Divisions, the Appellate
Terms and the highest court in the State of New York, the New York Court of Appeals. He has also taken on cases in the various U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and successfully identified legal issues, designed and written briefs and conducted oral argument. The firm’s practice is concentrated in the area of appeals in criminal matters in both State and Federal Courts, and Mr. Preziosi recently launched a United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) awareness campaign to help the general public learn more about this critically important and influential aspect of criminal law.
Learn more at http://www.newyorkappellatelawyer.com.