Florida Court Discusses Sentence Reductions Under the First Step Act

In 2018, Congress enacted the First Step Act (the Act), which along with the Fair Sentencing Act, was a law designed to reduce the disparity between the penalties imposed on people convicted of crimes arising out of the possession and distribution of cocaine powder versus crack. Merely because a court possesses the power to reduce a sentence under the Act, however, does not mean that it is required to do so. This was demonstrated recently in a Florida case in which a defendant appealed the denial of his request for a sentence reduction under the Act. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is critical to understand your rights, and you should confer with a skillful Clearwater drug crime defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant sought a reduction of his sentence pursuant to the Act. The trial court denied his request without conducting a hearing. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court’s decision constituted an abuse of discretion. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed the trial court ruling.

Sentence Reductions Under the First Step Act

Federal district courts have no inherent authority to modify or reduce sentences; instead, they may only do so when it is authorized by a statute or rule. For example, the Act explicitly authorizes the district courts to modify criminal sentences in certain circumstances. Prior to the Act, Congress enacted the Fair Sentencing Act, which increased the amount of drugs that would trigger statutory penalties in an effort to reduce the disparity in sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

The Act then made the statutory penalties enacted under the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. While the Act provides that a court that imposed a sentence for a covered offense may reduce the sentence as if the Act was in effect at the time the offense was committed, no provisions of the Act compel a court to issue such reduced sentences. In other words, while district courts have the authority to reduce sentences under the Act, they are not required to do so.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court did not reduce its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion to reduce his sentence under the Act. First, the appellate court noted that sentence reduction hearings were not criminal proceedings, and therefore the lack of a hearing did not violate the defendant’s rights. Further, the record reflected that the trial court evaluated the merits of the defendant’s claim. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney

Drug crimes carry lengthy penalties, but there may be arguments a person convicted of a drug offense can assert in pursuit of a reduced sentence. If you are charged with selling or possessing illegal substances, it is smart to talk to a drug crime lawyer about your potential defenses. The experienced Clearwater attorneys of Hanlon Law are well-versed in what it takes to obtain successful outcomes in criminal matters, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law via the online form or by calling 727-897-5413 to set up a meeting.

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