Fourth Circuit - First Step Act of 2018

United States v. Jordan, 952 F.3d 160 (4th Cir. 2020). Section 403 of the First Step Act, which reduced mandatory minimum penalties for certain drug offenses, did not apply to a defendant whose case was pending appeal at the time of the statute’s enactment. A sentence is “imposed” when the district court enters a sentence, not when the appeals are exhausted.

United States v. Gravatt, 953 F.3d 258 (4th Cir. 2020). A dual-object conspiracy charging both 50 grams or more of crack cocaine (penalties modified by the Fair Sentencing Act) and 5 kilograms or more of powder cocaine (penalties not modified by the Fair Sentencing Act) is a covered offense under the First Step Act.

United States v. Chambers, 956 F.3d 667 (4th Cir. 2020). In ruling on a § 404(b) motion, a court should consider the § 3553(a) factors, may consider a defendant’s post-sentencing conduct, and may vary downwardly from the Guidelines range, “and, in doing so, [may] consider [a defendant’s] post-sentencing conduct”. The court may correct Guidelines errors, and further, the court must fix an error that was “a mistake at the time of the defendant’s original sentencing.”

United States v. McCoy, 981 F.3d 271 (4th Cir. 2020). After the passage of the First Step Act of 2018, the policy statement at §1B1.13 applies only to compassionate release motions filed by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, not those filed by defendants.

United States v. McDonald, 986 F.3d 402 (4th Cir. 2021). The court failed to “provide individualized explanations” of its decisions to deny retroactive sentence reductions under the First Step Act. The defendants presented enough mitigating evidence of their post-sentencing conduct to rebut the presumption on appeal that the district court “sufficiently considered relevant factors.”

United States v. Kibble, 992 F.3d 326 (4th Cir. 2021). An abuse-of-discretion standard governs review of a district court’s grant or denial of compassionate release. The defendant showed “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for relief, but the court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief based on public safety concerns.

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