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October 24, 2012

2011 Sentencing Guidelines for Crack Cocaine Offense do not Give a Convicted Defendant an Automatic Sentence Reduction - Boston Criminal Defense Attorneys Parker Scheer

Court did not err in denying a request to sentence a defendant based on a 2011 sentencing guidelines amendment. United States v. Aponte-Guzmán, 12-1180, US 1st Circuit, Oct. 16, 2012.

In 2011, the Sentencing Commission lowered the advisory guideline ranges for certain crack cocaine offense, which district courts were empowered to apply retroactively, on a case-by-case basis.
In June, 2009, a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Puerto Rico indicted 58 defendants for participating in a massive drug-trafficking enterprise. Defendant Jorge Aponte-Guzmán was named in six substantive counts.
Though Mr. Guzman proclaimed his innocence he changed his plea and entered a guilty plea on two counts: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute various controlled substances (including crack cocaine), and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. The written plea agreement stipulated that the defendant would be held responsible for at least 150, but less than 500, grams of crack cocaine. The district court accepted the change of plea and adjusted his offense level to 32, which placed him in criminal history category I. Under the sentencing guidelines, Mr. Guzman could be sentenced to between 135 and 168 months. The district court gave him a 150 month prison term, and dismissed the other four counts against Mr. Guzman. Mr. Guzman appealed his sentence after the new guidelines became effective.
On appeal, the court noted that if the district court had found the defendant responsible for 280 or more grams of crack cocaine -- a decision that would have fit comfortably with the drug-quantity stipulation contained in the plea agreement -- the defendant's sentence under the new sentencing guidelines would not have changed at all. This parity would, of course, argue powerfully against the need for a sentence reduction.

If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The Parker | Scheer LLP Criminal Practice Group is led by Boston Criminal Lawyer Francis T. O'Brien Jr. who defends criminal cases in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. Criminal Courts served include Cambridge District Court, Cambridge, MA - Boston Municipal Court, Boston, MA - Brockton District Court, Brockton, MA - Framingham District Court, Framingham, MA. Waltham District Court, Waltham, MA

October 1, 2010

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Decriminalizes Criminal Charge for Possession of an Ounce of Marijuana

On Thursday September 30, 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law Proposition 19, a bill that downgrades possession of an ounce of less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction - punishable by a fine. "I am signing this measure because possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything by name," stated the Governor as he signed the bill. This bill does not legalize marijuana usage, it just reduces the penalty - marijuana is still illegal in California. In essence, the bill treats possession of a small amount of pot similar to a parking ticket, by a fine of no more than $100. But don't toke up yet, the bill doesn't go into effect until January 1, 2011.

SB 1449 was written by state Senator Mark Leno, of San Francisco, who claims the law will keep marijuana-related cases from clogging up the court system. Even as a crime, the maximum penalty for possession under an ounce in marijuana was a fine up to $100, and no jail time. These charges significantly drained the already cash-strapped and debt-ridden state of time, money and other resources. For a prosecutor and a public defender to spend time over one of these cases is just a joke - it's the least efficient use of time in the court system. Governor Schwarzenegger said it best: In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.

However, don't think this means legalization of pot is around the corner. It seems the sole purpose of this bill is economic - not social. The only reason Schwarzenegger signed this bill is to save money. The Governor still adamantly opposes SB 1449. Better known as Proposition 19, this bill decriminalizes marijuana and allows for cultivation in the state. SB 1449 is controversial among the California legislature, with some claiming it will create jobs, while others argued legalizing drug use was morally wrong. The bill is nowhere near passing, especially with the Governor refusing the sign the bill into law, and claiming that if it passes it would turn California into a "laughingstock."

However, while this bill will inevitable save the state's legal system money, others still condemn the law. Randy Thomasson, president of savecalifornia.com, has been a long-time and outspoken critic of decriminalizing marijuana. According to Thomasson: "This virtual legalization of marijuana definitely sends the wrong message to teenagers and young adults. It invites youth to become addicted to mind-altering pot because there's not much hassle and no public stigma and no rehab if they're caught." Let's not forget that getting behind the wheel of a car after smoking a marijuana joint is the equivalent of driving after 2 or 3 beers (possibly more depending on the quality of pot). Driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana is a growing concern in California, and this new law certainly doesn't help the situation.

The New York Times, October 1, 2010: California Reduces Its Penalty for Marijuana


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