Florida Court Examines Sentence Reductions Under the First Step Act

For decades, certain people convicted of certain drug offenses were unjustly punished more harshly than those found guilty of similar crimes. In an effort to rectify such inequities, the United States government enacted the First Step Act, which among other things, reduces the sentencing disparity between similar drug crimes. The Act applies retroactively, meaning many people convicted of covered drug offenses are eligible to have their sentences reduced. In a recent Florida opinion, the court discussed the Act and what constitutes a qualifying offense for purposes of sentence reduction. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is smart to meet with a Tampa drug crime defense attorney to examine your potential defenses as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant moved for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act. The court denied his motion, and he appealed. He then filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied as well. He filed a second appeal; in response, the government moved for summary affirmance.

Sentence Reductions Under the First Step Act

The court ultimately granted the government’s motion. It noted that summary disposition is appropriate in cases where one party’s position is clearly correct as a matter of law. The court generally reviews de novo whether the district court had the authority to modify a defendant’s sentence under the First Step Act, but the denial of a motion for reconsideration is reviewed for abuse of discretion.

The court explained that the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the sentencing inequality between powder cocaine and crack offenses. The First Step Act, enacted in 2018, allowed the courts to apply the statutory penalties enacted under the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively for certain “covered offenses” committed before August 3, 2010. The statute allows the courts to impose a reduced sentence as if the Fair Sentencing Act was in effect at the time of the covered offense. The courts cannot entertain a motion for reduction if a previous motion under this section was denied after a complete review on the merits, however.

In the subject case, the court found that the law-of-the-case doctrine applies, which means the appellate decision from the previous appeal binds all subsequent proceedings on the same case. The court clarified that the defendant did not show that the district court erred on any of the three independent grounds it relied on in denying his motion for reconsideration. As such, the court found the government’s position to be correct as a matter of law and granted the government’s motion for summary affirmance.

Talk to a Knowledgeable Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today

People accused of drug offenses often fear that the odds are stacked against them, but the prosecution must prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is crucial to hire an attorney who will help you fight to protect your future. The knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law are well-equipped to help people charged with drug crimes seek favorable outcomes, and if you hire us, we will diligently pursue the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can contact Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.