Brief filed: 02/19/2021
Terry v. United States
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 20-5904
Decision below 828 Fed. Appx. 563 (11th Cir. 2020)
Defendants sentenced for crack cocaine offenses under the pre-2010 version of § 841(b)(1)(C) are eligible for resentencing under the First Step Act of 2018. The First Step Act’s resentencing provisions apply to offenses whose penalties were “modified” by the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010. Although defendants sentenced under the pre-2010 version of § 841(b)(1)(C) remain eligible for their original sentences after the statute was recently amended, the sentences they would have received under the post-2010 version of the statute almost certainly would have been lower—likely significantly lower. That is because the Fair Sentencing Act dramatically expanded the drug quantities to which § 841(b)(1)(C) applies. All else equal, a sentencing judge generally aims to align the various drug-quantity ranges in § 841(b) with the corresponding sentence ranges—assigning lower sentences for lower quantities and higher sentences for higher quantities. In other words, the drug-quantity benchmarks in § 841(b) exert a powerful anchoring influence over a judge’s sentencing decisions. And Congress changed the relevant anchor points 2010. Thus, it “modified” the statutory penalties in § 841(b)(1)(C), and defendants sentenced under that provision are entitled to resentencing.
Gerard J. Cedrone, David J. Zimmer, Daniel M. Isaacs, Goodwin Procter LLP, Boston, MA; Benjamin Hayes, Goodwin Procter, LLP; Washington, DC; David Oscar Markus, NACDL, Miami, FL.