Supreme Court hears arguments on application of Fair Sentencing Act

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Tuesday in Dorsey v. United States [transcript, PDF] on whether minimum sentencing mandates in the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) [materials; JURIST report] should be applied to crimes committed before the FSA was enacted, but where sentencing occurred after. This case was consolidated with Hill v. United States. The FSA increased the amount of crack cocaine required for the imposition of certain mandatory minimum sentences. Dorsey was arrested in possession of 5.5 grams of crack cocaine and was convicted. During the intervening time, the FSA was passed, which raised the amount of crack cocaine required for a five-year sentence from five to 28 grams. The trial judge entered a sentence consistent with the previous guidelines and was upheld on appeal. The FSA did not include any language to make it apply retroactively, but it not did explicitly deny such retro activity. Doresy's attorney advocated:

The correct date is the [date of enactment], because of the intent of Congress made known through the implication of the language taken in the legal context of the Sentencing Reform Act. When Congress meant to correct their error, I believe they made it perfectly clear that they meant to correct this error as soon as possible. This has been an error that had been discussed for 25 years and was finally trying to be corrected.
A court appointed advocate countered in his argument that Congress' omission of retroactivity implicitly denied it.

 

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