Two Significant Supreme Court Decisions Affecting Federal Inmates Expected Soon

March 28, 2018

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument on two cases that can have a significant impact on a large number of current federal inmates. Both of these cases can result in a significant number of federal inmates begin released from federal prison earlier than anticipated. In Hughes v. United States the court will address the thorny issue of whether a federal inmate who enters a plea pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) can seek to be resentenced pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2) when the Sentencing Commission makes an amendment that subsequently lowers the guideline range. A plea under FRCP 11(c)(1)(C), although not commonly utilized, is a specific agreement between the government and the defendant to a specific defined sentence and, if accepted by the court, that specified sentence must be imposed by the court leaving the court no discretion. It is estimated that the decision in this case will affect approximately 800 federal inmates. In a similar case, Koons v. United States, the court will decide whether defendants subject to statutory mandatory minimum sentences, but who received prison terms below the minimum because they provided substantial assistance to the government, are eligible for reductions under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2). It is estimated by the Sentencing Commission that this case will affect approximately 3000 federal inmates. Both cases will interpret 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2) and what the term “based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission” means in both scenarios. Not only will both these cases affect thousands of current federal inmates but can affect innumerable inmates in the future particularly as the United States Sentencing Commission is poised to adopt significant amendments which may have retroactive effect in November 2018. It is anticipated that the Supreme Court will rule by the end of its current session in June 2018 If you have any questions or may need or assistance, please contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants (NPSC) at or at 615-696-6153.