Florida Court Discusses Sentence Reductions Under the First Step Act

Drug crimes can result in serious penalties, and typically lengthier sentences are imposed for offenses involving certain classes of drugs. In recent years, though, flaws in the federal sentencing schemes were noted, and numerous laws were passed to address sentencing discrepancies, and people sentenced under prior laws may be eligible for reduced sentences. In a recent opinion, a Florida court discussed eligibility for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act in a case in which the trial court denied the defendant’s request for a reduction. If you are charged with a drug offense, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in 2005, the defendant was charged with and found guilty of numerous drug crimes, including conspiracy to possess 50 grams or more of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute, in violation of federal law. Due to the amount of crack in his possession and his prior criminal history, he was sentenced to life in prison for the conspiracy charge. His total sentence was life in prison plus fifteen years, followed by ten years of supervised release. In 2019, the defendant sought a reduction of his sentence under the First Step Act. His sentence was reduced but he nonetheless appealed, arguing it should have been further reduced per the terms of the Act.

Reductions of Penalties Under the First Step Act

In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which changed the statutory penalties for drug offenses involving crack cocaine, including the one for which the defendant was convicted. The amendments were not applied retroactively, though, until 2018, when Congress enacted the First Step Act. Specifically, the First Step Act provides that the Fair Sentencing Act is retroactive and granted courts the authority to reduce the sentences of eligible crack offenders if they deemed it appropriate.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that he met the criteria for relief, and his sentence should be reduced to time served in light of his age, family history, and the lack of violence involved in his offenses, but his sentence was only reduced to 420 months. The court explained that in exercising its discretion under the First Step Act, a court may consider any relevant factors, including the sentencing factors set forth under federal law.

The court is not required to consider sentencing factors, though, and must only provide a detailed explanation that clearly establishes it had a reasonable basis for choosing to reduce a sentence or deny a request for a reduction under the First Step Act. Here, the court found that the district court adequately explained its reasons for not providing a greater reduction in the defendant’s sentence. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Meet with a Trusted Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

A conviction for a drug crime can result in years in prison, but in some instances, there are grounds for appealing unjust sentences. If you are accused of a drug crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a trusted Sarasota drug crime defense lawyer who can advise you of your options and help you to seek the best legal result available in your case. You can reach Mr. Hanlon via the form online or at 941-462-1789 to set up a meeting.

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