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Lesser Crack Cocaine Sentences Apply to Federal Defendants in Pipeline Crack Cocaine Cases

As we have discussed on our criminal defense lawyer blog in the past, the federal sentencing guidelines, which play a significant role in the ultimate sentence a federal criminal defendant will receive, used to be much more severe for crack cocaine cases as opposed to powder cocaine cases. They still are, however the wide gap has been narrowed to some degree. A couple of years ago, the rules for crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentencing in federal court changed to make sentences somewhat more comparable for powder and crack cocaine cases involving similar amounts (basically, the sentencing disparity went from 100-1 to 18-1).

The new rules clearly apply for the benefit of anyone with a new crack cocaine case. One question was whether the lesser crack cocaine guidelines apply to people who pled guilty or were convicted at trial prior to the new rules but were scheduled to be sentenced after the new rules went into effect in 2010. The United States Supreme Court recently decided that the lesser crack cocaine sentencing rules do apply to people in the pipeline at the time, i.e. people who were convicted prior to the rules going into effect but sentenced after the rules went into effect. As a result, there are thousands of defendants who were convicted of crack cocaine crimes who could have their sentences reduced under the new crack cocaine sentencing rules.