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9th Circuit Remands Cocaine Base Conviction

USA v. Jerramey Roper Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Docket: 22-30021, Opinion Date: July 6, 2023. In 2013, Defendant pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine base with intent to distribute in and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. The district court applied a “career-offender enhancement” to the sentence on the drug offense, which the Sentencing Guidelines recommend if, among other things, “the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.” Over the next decade, intervening case law disqualified three of Defendant’s prior convictions as predicates for the career-offender enhancement. Defendant moved for sentence reduction in 2021. Although the district court concluded that Defendant’s Guideline range would be reduced to 140 to 175 months if he were sentenced at the time of his motion, it denied relief. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s denial and remanded for the district court to consider the motion anew. The panel held that district courts may consider non-retroactive changes in post-sentencing decisional law affecting the applicable Sentencing Guidelines when assessing whether a defendant has established the requisite “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” The panel wrote that the logic of United States v. Chen, 48 F.4th 1092 (9th Cir. 2022), which rested on Concepcion v. United States, 142 S. Ct. 2389 (2022) applies with full force when the relevant change in sentencing law is decisional. The panel wrote that considering decisional law in the extraordinary-and-compelling-reasons inquiry does not circumvent habeas, as Defendant does not claim that his original sentence violated the Constitution or federal law and does not seek to correct sentencing errors.

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