Sixth Circuit - First Step Act of 2018

United States v. Richardson, 948 F.3d 733 (6th Cir. 2020). Section 403 of the First Step Act, which reduced penalties for subsequent violations of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), is not retroactive and cannot be applied to a defendant whose case was remanded in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). The First Step Act created new law rather than clarifying existing law, and the defendant’s sentence was “imposed” when the judgment was first announced, which was more than one year before the First Step Act became law.

United States v. Allen, 956 F.3d 355 (6th Cir. 2020). A court may consider the § 3553(a) factors, including a defendant’s post-sentencing conduct, to determine whether to reduce his or her sentence under § 404(b).

United States v. Smith, 958 F.3d 494 (6th Cir. 2020). The defendant’s 360-month sentence, reduced pursuant to the First Step Act, was procedurally reasonable. The court was not required to hold a plenary resentencing and the judge sufficiently explained the reasons for the modified sentence.

United States v. Foreman, 958 F.3d 506 (6th Cir. 2020). The First Step Act does not require a court to conduct a plenary resentencing hearing before determining whether a reduction is warranted. The appellate court can review the sentence modification for reasonableness.

United States v. Smith, 959 F.3d 701 (6th Cir. 2020). The court abused its discretion when it denied the defendant’s motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to the First Step Act. The court “failed to provide a sufficiently compelling justification for maintaining the sentence that is now twice the guideline range set by Congress,” and would have to reconsider the defendant’s motion with reference to the purposes of the First Step Act and the Fair Sentencing Act.

United States v. Alam, 960 F.3d 831 (6th Cir. 2020). A prisoner’s motion for compassionate release under § 3582(c)(1)(A) requires the prisoner to fully exhaust all administrative rights or wait 30 days after the warden’s receipt of the request. This requirement is a claim-processing rule, not a jurisdictional one, and the district court must enforce the rule if the government raises it.

United States v. Boulding, 960 F.3d 774 (6th Cir. 2020). Section 404(b) eligibility depends on the statute of conviction, not the defendant’s actual conduct. Eligible defendants are not entitled to plenary resentencing, but a court’s discretion to deny resentencing is not unlimited: an eligible defendant is entitled to an amended Guidelines calculation, renewed consideration of the § 3553(a) factors, and an opportunity to raise objections.

United States v. Snow, 967 F.3d 563 (6th Cir. 2020). Conspiracy to kill a person while engaged in a conspiracy to distribute 50 grams of cocaine base in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 848(e)(1)(A), is not a covered offense under § 404(b).

United States v. Williams, 972 F.3d 815 (6th Cir. 2020). In ruling on a defendant’s § 404(b) motion, the court erred when it failed to address the defendant’s post-conviction conduct.

United States v. Ruffin, 978 F.3d 1000 (6th Cir. 2020). The court did not abuse its discretion when it denied a motion for compassionate release. Even if a defendant meets the statutory requirements at 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), a court must consider 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors and may “deny relief if it finds that the ‘applicable’ [section] 3553(a) factors do not justify it.”

United States v. Jones, 980 F.3d 1098, (6th 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. Henry, 983 F.3d 214 (6th Cir. 2020). Section 403 of the First Step Act, which eliminated stacking of contemporaneous 18 USC § 924(c) convictions, applies to a defendant facing a limited resentencing (due to an appeal on unrelated grounds) after the FSA was passed.

United States v. Elias, 984 F.3d 516 (6th Cir. 2021). The combination of hypertension and COVID-19 was not an extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release. The CDC had not identified hypertension as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 complications, and the prison where the defendant was incarcerated had no COVID-19 cases.

United States v. Sherwood, 986 F.3d 951 (6th Cir. 2021). Because satisfying the policy statement at USSG §1B1.13 is no longer a requirement for compassionate release motions filed by the defendant, the court erred when it denied the defendant’s motion with a two-sentence order relying “exclusively” on the provision.

United States v. Navarro, 986 F.3d 668 (6th Cir. 2021). The court did not abuse its discretion by denying a compassionate release motion with a form order. It was clear that the court relied on the record, including the defendant’s “extensive criminal history—in addition to his repeated illegal reentries.”

United States v. Maxwell, 991 F.3d 685 (6th Cir. 2021). Section 404 of the First Step Act, which permits a court to reduce a sentence for a covered offense, does not entitle an eligible defendant to a plenary resentencing. A court, however, may use its discretion to consider subsequent legal and factual developments in balancing the § 3553(a) factors to assess whether, and to what extent, to modify a sentence.

United States v. Wills, 991 F.3d 720 (6th Cir. 2021). The First Step Act’s definition of “serious drug felony,” which determines whether a defendant is subject to an increased mandatory minimum for a drug trafficking offense, does not apply retroactively. The court therefore did not abuse its discretion when it found that the new, more favorable definition does not constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons justifying compassionate release.

United States v. Tomes, 990 F.3d 500 (6th Cir. 2021). When ruling on a defendant-filed motion for compassionate release, the court is not bound by the policy statement at §1B1.13, but the court may consider the policy statement along with other § 3553(a) factors.

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