In Concepcion v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court continued its support for sentencing discretion for district court judges. In this case, the issue was how much discretion a sentencing judge has when resentencing a defendant pursuant to the First Step Act, a substantial criminal justice reform act that Congress passed in 2018. Among its provisions is one allowing for resentencing of persons convicted before 2010 for distribution of crack cocaine who had been ineligible for resentencing when Congress in 2010 revised downward the penalties for crack cocaine (in the so-called Fair Sentencing Act). The quantities that triggered mandatory minimum sentences were reduced substantially, and the guidelines were amended to reflect those reductions.
Mr. Concepcion had been given a 19-year sentence in 2009 for selling 13.8 grams of crack. Because he was a “career offender,” meaning that he had a number of prior convictions for “crimes of violence” or drug distribution, his guideline sentencing range was not affected by the quantity reductions, and so he was not eligible for resentencing when the crack sentencing changes took effect in 2010. CONTINUE READING ›