Thousands of inmates doing federal time in the West won a chance to challenge their sentences under an appeals court ruling Wednesday in San Francisco, reports the Associated Press. The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is part of the continuing fallout from a controversial Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the federal sentencing system. The high court said judges should consult federal sentencing guidelines in determining prison terms – but only on an advisory basis.
In its 7-4 ruling Wednesday, the 9th Circuit said the only reasonable way to ensure the high court’s wishes are followed is to allow all federal inmates whose convictions are on appeal to challenge their sentences. The court, covering nine Western states, said appeals could number in “perhaps the thousands.” The case before the 9th Circuit involved Alfred Ameline, who was sentenced to 12-1/2 years in 2002 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Great Falls, Mont. He did not admit any amount of drugs, but the judge accepted the prosecutor’s claim that it was 1,603 grams. Using that drug weight and other factors, the sentencing range was 135-to-168 months.