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Remand to the sentencing court to determine the drug quantity made at the sentencing

In U.S. v. Hamilton, the defendant appeal the denial of his motion for a sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), which authorizes a court to modify or reduce a sentence for an amendment to the guideline range. The defendant pled guilty to drug offenses including conspiracy to possess and distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base (crack cocaine). The defendant’s presentence investigation report (PSR) stated that the defendants in the conspiracy received at least one kilogram of powder cocaine that was cooked into crack cocaine. He was assigned a base offense level of 38 based on the drug offense involving at least 1.5 kilograms of crack cocaine. The defendant objected to this base offense recommendations by the PSR. In response to the defendant’s objections, the PSR said that at least two weeks of activities by the conspiracy would have been sufficient to make at least 1.5 kilograms of crack cocaine. The addendum implicitly used the conversion rate of 75% of powder cocaine to powder. At sentencing the district court adopted the addendum’s calculation that the defendants received on kilogram of powder per week and operated for at least 2 months.

The defendant filed a motion for sentence reduction pursuant to 3582(c)(2) in light of amendment 750 to the guidelines which raised to 8.4 kilograms the minimum amount of crack cocaine necessary to establish a base offense level of 38. In response to the motion to reduce, the probation officer found the defendant was responsible for 12 kilograms of crack cocaine and fell under the offense level of 38. The defendant’s response was that at sentencing the district court initially only found him responsible for at least 1.5 kilograms of cocaine.

The 11th Circuit held that the district court may reduce a defendant’s sentence based on a subsequently enacted amendment if the sentencing Guidelines make the amendment retroactively applicable. In determining the amended guideline range, the district court may not reconsider any guideline application decisions and must leave all previous factual decisions intact. The district court is limited to considering the sentence that it would have imposed had the amendment been in effect at the time of the original sentencing and must leave all its previous factual decisions intact.

The district court erred in relying on the government’s position which contained inaccuracies or incomplete information about the drug findings at the original sentencing. The government cited certain paragraphs from the PSR, but those paragraphs did not say how much powder cocaine the conspiracy group used to cook a kilogram of crack cocaine. Furthermore it was not clear what the district court’s original findings were in reaching its sentencing decision. For this reason, the district court did not show that it accurately determined the original drug quantity, and the 11th Circuit remanded for the district court to determine what drug quantity finding it made at the original sentencing. On remand that district court may not receive any additional new evidence.

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