Historically, people convicted of some drug crimes faced harsher penalties than those convicted of others. In an effort to remedy this disparity, Congress passed a law known as the First Step Act that allowed for sentence reductions when certain factors were met. Recently, in an opinion delivered in a drug offense case, a Michigan court explained what a defendant must show to demonstrate eligibility for a reduced sentence under the First Step Act. If you are charged with a drug crime, you could face significant penalties, and it is prudent to meet with a skillful Michigan criminal defense attorney to assess your options.
The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentencing
It is reported that the defendant was convicted of conspiracy with the intent to distribute controlled substances, using a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, tax evasion, possessing cocaine with an intent to distribute, and engaging in a continuous criminal enterprise in the late 1980s. He was sentenced to a term of life in prison and five years of supervised release. He appealed, and his conviction for conspiracy was vacated, and his sentence was reduced. He then sought a further reduction of his sentence under the First Step Act.
Eligibility for a Reduced Sentence under the First Step Act
At the time the defendant was sentenced, crimes involving crack cocaine were treated more harshly than those related to powder cocaine. To address this sentencing disparity, in 2010, Congress issued the Fair Sentencing Act. The provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act were not retroactive; however, so in 2018 Congress passed the First Step Act.
Pursuant to the First Step Act, a defendant found guilty of a covered offense may file a motion asking the sentencing court to reduce the penalty imposed as if the provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act were in place at the time the covered crime was committed. Pursuant to the First Step Act, a covered crime is one that was committed before August 3, 2010 and violates a federal criminal statute, the penalties for which were modified by the Fair Sentencing Act.
The court noted, however, that the First Step Act merely allowed courts to reduce sentences of eligible defendants but did not require a reduction. In the subject case, the court affirmed that the defendant met the eligibility requirements for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act. The court explained, though, that eligibility does not entitle a defendant to a de novo resentencing hearing or plenary resentencing. Instead, courts can apply sentencing factors as they see fit. Here, the court ultimately determined that the defendant’s sentence should be reduced.
Meet with a Trusted Criminal Defense Lawyer in Michigan
People faced with drug crime charges often feel as if the odds are stacked against them, but in many instances, they are numerous defenses they can assert to avoid convictions. If you are charged with a drug crime, you should meet with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a trusted Michigan criminal defense attorney with the knowledge and resources needed to help you seek the best legal outcome possible. You can reach him through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a meeting.