Dillon v. United States

PETITIONER: Percy Dillon
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Federal District Court (Pittsburgh, PA)

DOCKET NO.: 09-6338
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2009-2010)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 560 US 817 (2010)
GRANTED: Dec 07, 2009
ARGUED: Mar 30, 2010
DECIDED: Jun 17, 2010

ADVOCATES:
Lisa B. Freeland - for the petitioner
Leondra R. Kruger - Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the respondent

Facts of the case

A Pennsylvania federal district court convicted Percy Dillon for conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and more than 50 grams of cocaine base, use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, and possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. Subsequently, the Sentencing Commission amended the Sentencing Guidelines to retroactively reduce the base offense level for crack cocaine offenses. Mr. Dillon then moved to have his sentence reduced in accordance with the new guidelines. The district court reduced Mr. Dillon's sentence by two levels, but held that it lacked the authority to reduce his sentence further. On appeal, Mr. Dillon argued that in light of United States v. Booker the district court had the authority to further reduce his sentence. Moreover, he argued that the district court erred in calculating his criminal history score when determining his sentencing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the district court, holding that Booker did not allow a district court, when reducing a previously imposed sentence, to treat the amended guidelines' range as advisory. Moreover, the court rejected Mr. Dillon's argument that the district court erred in calculating his criminal history score, reasoning that the district court had no authority to reconsider its prior criminal history determination.

Question

Are the federal sentencing guidelines binding when a district court imposes a new sentence under a revised guideline range?

Media for Dillon v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 2010 in Dillon v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 2010 in Dillon v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Sotomayor has an opinion this morning in case 09-6338, Dillon vs. United States.

Sonia Sotomayor:

In 1993, petitioner Percy Dillon was convicted of among other things, crack cocaine offenses and was sentenced to 322 months imprisonment.

Roughly fifteen years later, the sentencing commission amended the Crack Cocaine Guidelines by lowering them and it made the amendments retroactive.

Dillon then moved for sentence reduction under 18 USC code Section 3582 (C) (2).

That provision authorizes a District Court to reduce an otherwise final sentence pursuant to a guideline amendment if a reduction is consistent with the commission's policy statements.

The relevant policy statement found in section 1B1.10 of the Guidelines Manual precludes a court from reducing a sentence to a term that is less than the minimum of the amended guidelines range except in circumstances not applicable here.

Dillon nevertheless asked the district court to impose a sentence below the amended range, contending that our decision in United States versus Booker which made the guidelines advisory requires court to treat section 1B110 as nonbinding.

He also asked the court to correct certain alleged errors in his original sentence that are unrelated to the guidelines amendment.

The District Court imposed a sentence at the bottom of the revised guideline range but declined to grant the further reduction.

Finding Booker inapplicable to section 3582(C)(2), the court concluded that section 1B110 constrained it to impose a sentence within the amended range.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed.

We granted certiorari to address Bookers' applicability to section 3582 (C) (2) proceedings.

Dillon contends that proceedings under that section are essentially plenary re-sentencing proceedings and that Booker's holdings therefore apply.

The text and purpose of the statute belay that claim.

Section 3582 (C) (2) represents a congressional act of lenity intended to give prisoners the benefit of later enacted guidelines amendments.

The authority of the courts acting under section 3582 (C) (2) is substantially constrained by the commission which is charged with determining whether and to what extent the guidelines amendment is retroactive.

By statute, the court may exercise discretion to reduce a prisoner sentence only to the extent consistent with the commission's statements.

In light of these unique constraints, it is clear that proceedings authorized under section 3582 (C) (2) are not re-sentencing proceedings.

For the reasons elaborated in our opinion issued today we hold that treating section (1) (B) 110 as binding in these circumstances implicates neither the sixth amendment nor remedial interest that issue in Booker.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion, Justice Alito took no part in the decision of the court.