United States v. Austin

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 04-18-2012
  • Case #: 10-10001
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bea for the Court, Circuit Judges Nelson and Wallace
  • Full Text Opinion

To qualify for sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), the (C) agreement must either explicitly allow the court to apply sentencing guideline ranges or clearly show that the specific term of the agreement was based on sentencing ranges.

Facing an indictment for cocaine and firearm possession, Austin entered a written plea agreement with the government that stipulated that he would plead guilty to two of three charges and that both sides would recommend a seventeen-year sentence. Austin later filed a motion to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), which allows sentence reduction for plea agreements that were “based on” sentencing ranges that have subsequently been lowered. The district court granted the motion. The Ninth Circuit found that Austin’s (C) agreement did not qualify for either of two exceptions from Justice Sotomayor’s concurrence in Freeman. The Court found that the first exception didn’t apply because Austin’s agreement was for a specific term and did not mention a sentencing range. The second exception allows for reduction were it is “evident from the agreement itself” that sentencing ranges were used to calculate a specific term. Austin argued that his was actually a (B) agreement because his sentence was “recommended,” rather than mandatory, but the Court rejected that argument because the plea agreement was conditioned on acceptance of the seventeen-year sentence. The Court found that Austin’s agreement did not meet the second exception because application of a sentencing range must be clearly stated in the agreement itself to qualify according to Freeman. REVERSED and VACATED.

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