United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause is before the court on the mandate of the Court of
Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit entered on March 28, 2018.
(Doc. # 161.) The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district
court's order denying Defendant's 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(2) motion for a sentence reduction based on Amendment
782 to the Sentencing Guidelines and remanded for this court
“to consider whether, and to what extent, to reduce
Ruffin's sentence.” (Doc. # 160, at 3.) For the
reasons that follow, Ruffin's motion is due to be
granted, and his sentence will be reduced from 96 months to
12, 2007, Ruffin was sentenced on a conviction for possession
with intent to distribute cocaine base. Ruffin's
conviction exposed him to a statutory sentencing range of not
less than five years and not more than forty years.
See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). Ruffin's
guideline range was 100 to 125 months based upon a total
offense level of 27 and a criminal history category of IV. At
Ruffin's sentencing hearing, the court granted the
Government's motion for a one-level downward departure
under U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 based upon the substantial
assistance provided by Ruffin. To calculate the departure,
the court reduced the total offense level from 27 to 26,
which resulted in a sentencing range of 92 to 115 months. The
court sentenced Ruffin to 96 months' imprisonment.
Ruffin's sentence became final, the Sentencing Commission
promulgated Amendment 782. Effective November 1, 2014,
Amendment 782 reduced by two levels the base offense levels
for most drug quantities in U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1.
See U.S.S.G. Manual, supp. app. C, amend. 782 at
64-74, amend. 788, at 86-88 (Nov. 1, 2014). Amendment 788, by
including Amendment 782 on the list of amendments in U.S.S.G.
§ 1B1.10(d), made Amendment 782 retroactive so as to
lower sentences of qualifying previously sentenced inmates,
but delayed for one year the release of eligible
courts are forbidden, as a general matter, to modify a term
of imprisonment once it has been imposed, but the rule of
finality is subject to a few narrow exceptions.”
Freeman v. United States, 564 U.S. 522, 526 (2011)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Section
3582(c)(2) supplies one of those narrow exceptions and gives
the district court discretion to modify a sentence if the
following three prerequisites are met: (1) The defendant
“has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on
a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the
Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. [§]
994(o)”; (2) “a reduction is consistent with
applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing
Commission”; and (3) the relevant factors set out in 18
U.S.C. § 3553(a) demonstrate that the defendant is
entitled to relief. § 3582(c)(2); see United States
v. C.D., 848 F.3d 1286, 1289 (10th Cir. 2017)
(“Section 3582(c)(2) plainly tells us a defendant must
overcome three distinct hurdles before he may obtain a
sentence reduction thereunder.”). As these requirements
portend, a reduction of a sentence under § 3582(c)(2)
“does not constitute a de novo
resentencing.” United States v. Bravo, 203
F.3d 778, 781 (11th Cir. 2000).
Supreme Court of the United States has condensed the §
3582(c)(2) inquiry into two steps. Step one examines a
defendant's eligibility for a sentence reduction, and,
where eligibility is met, the extent of the reduction
authorized. “At step one, § 3582(c)(2) requires
the court to follow the Commission's instructions in
§ 1B1.10 to determine the prisoner's eligibility for
a sentence modification and the extent of the
reduction.” Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S.
817, 827 (2010). The court calculates the impact of the
applicable guideline amendment on the sentencing range and
leaves intact all other original sentencing findings. The
guideline amendment must lower the “applicable
guideline range, ” which is “the guideline range
that corresponds to the offense level and criminal history
category determined pursuant to § 1B1.1(a), which is
determined before consideration of any departure provision in
the Guidelines Manual or any variance.” U.S.S.G. §
1B1.10, comment. (n.1(A)).
1B1.10 also dictates the extent of the reduction permitted.
Generally, a § 3582(c)(2) authorized reduction cannot
dip below the amended guideline range, but where the original
sentence was below the guideline range, § 1B1.10 permits
a “comparable” reduction below the amended
guideline range. Id. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(B); see
also Dillon, 560 U.S. at 827. “At step two of the
inquiry, § 3582(c)(2) instructs a court to consider any
applicable § 3553(a) factors and determine whether, in
its discretion, the reduction authorized by reference to the
policies relevant at step one is warranted in whole or in
part under the particular circumstances of the case.”
Dillon, 560 U.S. at 827.
discussion is divided into three parts. Ruffin's
eligibility for a sentence reduction under § 3582(c)(2)
is established in the first part. The second part assesses
the extent of a reduction authorized by § 1B1.10.
Finally, in the third part, the § 3553(a) factors are
considered on the issue of whether a reduction is warranted.
Ruffin is eligible for a sentence
3582(c)(2) authorizes a sentence reduction where the court
originally set the term of imprisonment “based on a
sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the
Sentencing Commission.” § 3582(c)(2). The Eleventh
Circuit concluded that Ruffin is eligible for a sentence
The parties agree that after Amendment 782, Ruffin's base
offense level would be 26, rather than 28. See
U.S.S.D. § 2D1.1(c)(7) (2014). Holding constant the
district court's other guidelines calculations made at
the original sentencing, Ruffin's total offense level
would be 25, and, with a criminal history category of IV, the
resulting advisory guidelines range would be 84 to 105
months' imprisonment. See U.S.S.G. ch. 5, pt. A,
Sentencing Table (2014). In other words, it is undisputed
that Amendment 782 has the effect of lowering ...