Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, June 24, 2011

Vera Rojas: FSA applies to crack offenders sentenced after August 3, 2010

In U.S. v. Vega Rojas, No 10-14662 (June 24, 2011), the Court (Wilson, Martin, Anderson), held that the Fair Sentencing Act applied to crack cocaine offenders sentenced after the effective date of the FSA, August 3, 2010.

The Court distinguished U.S. v. Gomes, in which it had held that the FSA did not apply to a defendant sentenced prior to the FSA’s effective date.

The Court rejected the government’s reliance on the savings clause, 1 U.S.C. § 109 and Warden v. Marrero, on the ground that the repealing statute in that case specifically sought to preserve the harsher penalty for prosecutions initiated before its effective date. The FSA, by contrast, was “silent” on this point. The Court noted that Congress would not have intended for courts to sentence crack offenders under the old, higher mandatory minimums, until August 3, 2015, when the five-year statute of limitations would run. The Court noted that Congress granted the Sentencing Commission emergency authority to amend the crack cocaine Guidelines. Asking district courts to consider the date of the offense when determining the statutory minimum, and the sentencing date when applying the Guidelines, would lead to “incongruous” results. “The necessary inference is that the will of Congress was for the FSA to halt unfair sentencing practices immediately.”