United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
October 11, 2017
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:10-cr-00051)
Axam Jr., Assistant Federal Public Defender, argued the cause
for appellant. With him on the briefs was A.J. Kramer,
Federal Public Defender.
Michael E. McGovern, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the
cause for appellee. With him on the brief were Channing D.
Phillips, U.S. Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Chrisellen R.
Kolb, Anthony Scarpelli, and Barry Wiegand, Assistant U.S.
Before: Kavanaugh [*] and Millett, Circuit Judges, and
Williams, Senior Circuit Judge.
Millett, Circuit Judge
Smith pled guilty under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure
11(c)(1)(C) to a criminal conspiracy and was sentenced to 156
months of imprisonment, a sentence that fell within the
recommended Sentencing Guidelines range. Later, the United
States Sentencing Commission lowered that range and made its
amendment retroactive. Smith then moved for a corresponding
reduction in his sentence. The district court ruled that a
reduced sentence was both legally unavailable and
unwarranted. Because, under circuit and recent Supreme Court
precedent, Smith was eligible for a sentence reduction, we
reverse and remand for the district court to more fully
explain its decision to deny relief.
United States Sentencing Guidelines establish a non-binding
framework for determining criminal sentences in federal
prosecutions. As relevant here, at the time of Smith's
sentencing, Section 2D1.1(c) set the starting point of the
sentencing calculation-the "base level"-at 32 for
offenses like Smith's that involve at least one but less
than three kilograms of PCP. Factoring in his criminal
history and a downward departure for his guilty plea, Smith
faced a recommended Guidelines range of 140 to 175 months of
imprisonment. Following a plea agreement, the district court
sentenced him to 156 months, the middle of the recommended
Guidelines range and the sentence upon which the parties had
years later, the Sentencing Commission amended Section
2D1.1(c) by reducing that particular offense to a base level
of 30, which would carry a recommended sentencing range of
120 to 150 months of imprisonment. See U.S.S.G.
§ 2D1.1(c) and Supp. to App'x C, Amend. 782
("Amendment 782") (Nov. 1, 2014). That Amendment
applies retroactively to already-imposed sentences like
Smith's. Id. at Supp. to App'x C, Amend.
788, at pp. 86-87; see Hughes v. United States, 138
S.Ct. 1765, 1774 (2018).
federal law, if a defendant's term of imprisonment was
"based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been
lowered by the Sentencing Commission," the sentencing
court "may reduce the term of imprisonment[.]" 18
U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The decision whether to do so must
be based on the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(a), and any reduction must be "consistent
with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing
Commission," 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).
3553(a), in turn, requires courts to consider a variety of
factors in imposing a sentence or in resentencing, including:
(1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the
history and characteristics of the defendant;
(2) the need for the sentence imposed-
(A) to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote
respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the
(B) to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct;
(C) to protect the public from further crimes of the
(D) to provide the defendant with needed educational or
vocational training, medical care, or other correctional
treatment in the most effective manner;
(3) the kinds of sentences available;
(4) the kinds of sentence and the sentencing range