Court Explains Grounds for Reducing Sentences in Florida Criminal Cases

People convicted of disbursing drugs often face substantial sentences. While a subsequent intervening change in the law may impact the grounds for imposing a sentence in a drug crime case, it can be difficult to establish that such modifications are grounds for a sentence reduction, as discussed in a recent Florida ruling. If you are accused of distributing narcotics, it is in your best interest to talk to a Tampa drug crime defense attorney about your possible defenses.

Case Setting

Allegedly, in February 2013, the defendant pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of federal law. He failed to self-surrender after missing his initial sentencing, leading to a sentence of 262 months of incarceration followed by five years of supervised release. The sentence was not based on drug quantity guidelines but on his designation as a career offender due to two prior crimes.

It is reported that the defendant’s incarceration term was later reduced to 192 months for assisting police in a homicide investigation. Having served over ten years of his 192-month sentence, the defendant, aged 38, is incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Bastrop, Texas, with a projected release date of May 24, 2026. While in custody, he faced over a dozen disciplinary incidents, including drug or alcohol possession and refusing work, with the most recent incident in April 2023. He then moved for a second sentence reduction.

Grounds for Reducing Sentences in Florida Criminal Cases

The court first addressed whether the defendant exhausted his administrative remedies before considering his motion for a sentence reduction. The defendant submitted a sentence-reduction request to his facility’s warden in February 2024, and the warden responded with a denial in April 2024. Despite the government’s claim that the defendant did not appeal administratively, the court found he sufficiently exhausted his remedies since the warden’s response arrived after thirty days.

Next, the court evaluated the defendant’s claim of an extraordinary and compelling reason for a sentence reduction due to a gross disparity in light of a change in the law. The defendant argued that one of his prior convictions, previously considered a crime of violence, no longer qualified, impacting his career-offender status and resulting in a significant sentence disparity.

The court acknowledged the change but determined that the 17-month difference between his current sentence and the likely sentence today did not constitute a gross disparity. Therefore, the court found that the defendant failed to establish an extraordinary and compelling reason for a sentence reduction.

Additionally, the court found that the defendant posed a danger to the community, as evidenced by his numerous disciplinary incidents in prison, including drug-related offenses. This history precluded the court from granting a sentence reduction, as it must ensure that a defendant does not pose a threat to the community.

Finally, the court considered the sentencing factors, emphasizing the seriousness of the defendant’s drug crime, his history of serious offenses, and the need for the sentence to reflect the offense’s severity, promote respect for the law, provide just punishment, deter criminal conduct, and protect the public. These considerations supported maintaining the defendant’s current sentence. Consequently, the defendant’s motion for a sentence reduction was denied.

Consult with an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer
People charged with drug offenses may face substantial penalties if they are convicted, but simply because the government charges a person with a crime does not necessarily mean the prosecution has enough evidence to sustain a conviction. If you are charged with a drug offense, it is wise to consult with a lawyer to discuss your case. The experienced Tampa drug crime defense lawyers at Hanlon Law can assist you in pursuing the best possible outcome based on the specifics of your case. You can contact Hanlon Law via our online form or by calling 813-228-7095 to schedule a consultation.