April 16, 2014

Tenth Circuit: Increase in Sentence Based on Amount of Cocaine for Which Defendant was Responsible Unsupported in Record

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in United States v. Battle on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

In 1997, a jury convicted Shawn Battle of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base. Battle was sentenced to 360 months’ imprisonment. Battle appealed his conviction and sentence.  The Tenth Circuit affirmed. Shawn Battle then filed a motion for sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) following Amendments 750 and 759 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which would have the effect of retroactively reducing his advisory sentence Guidelines range. Under the amended Guidelines, a finding that Battle was responsible for 1.5 kilograms of crack would correspond to a reduced sentence range of 262 to 327 months. Battle argued that the court should find him eligible for a reduced sentence based on the finding that Battle was responsible for 1.5 kilograms of crack. The district court denied the motion. Combining figures in the Presentence Report, the court determined that Battle was responsible for 3.4 kilograms of crack. Using this 3.4 kilogram figure, the district court imposed a new increased sentence of 324 months. Battle appealed.

Federal courts generally “may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c). However, in the case of a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission, the court may reduce a previously imposed term of imprisonment if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission. Section 3582(c)(2)’s text, together with its narrow scope, shows that Congress intended to authorize only a limited adjustment to an otherwise final sentence and not a plenary resentencing proceeding. District courts cannot recalculate aspects of a sentence that are unaffected by a retroactively applicable amendment to the Guidelines.

In the case at bar, the Tenth Circuit determined that the supplemental drug quantity calculations made by the district court at Battle’s § 3582(c)(2) proceeding that he was responsible for 3.4 kilograms of crack were unsupported by the facts found at his original sentencing.

REVERSED and REMANDED for resentencing.

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