Today, two of the most controversial issues in sentencing law — the length of sentences for crack cocaine offenders and judges’ ability to go outside the federal sentencing guidelines — will be debated before a federal appeals court panel Atlanta, says the Fulton County (GA) Daily Report. The court will hear five cases from Florida on the issues. In each case the defendant was convicted of a federal crack cocaine offense and sentenced before more lenient crack cocaine sentencing guidelines went into effect in November. Each wants a new sentence based on the change in the guidelines but has been stymied because prosecutors argue they were sentenced as career offenders.
Crack cocaine sentencing guidelines have been criticized because the sale, manufacture or possession of crack carries a much harsher sentence than that for a similar amount of powder cocaine. Defendants view the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s retroactive change in the crack guideline as a way to get their foot in the door for a judge to revisit their sentences. Prosecutors argue that resentencings are limited proceedings in which judges aren’t supposed to start the sentencing consideration from scratch.