Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hughes: Rule 11(c) defendant not eligible for sentence reduction

In U.S. v. Hughes, No. 15-15246 (Feb. 27, 2017), the Court held that a defendant who pled guilty under a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea, which binds the district court to impose the sentence recommended by the parties, was not subsequently eligible for a sentence reduction based on an Amendment to the Sentencing Guidelines and 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The Court noted that the Supreme Court addressed this issue in Freeman (2011), a “plurality” decision in which Justice Sotomayor’s concurrence provided the “less-far-reaching” ground, and therefore represented Freeman’s holding. The Court noted the Circuit split on the holding in Freeman, and sided with the majority view. Under this view, a Rule 11(c) defendant is only eligible for a § 3582(c)(2) sentence reduction if the sentencing judge’s decision to accept the recommended sentence is based on the guidelines (not, as the plurality reasoned, because every sentence is based on the guidelines). Here, Hughes’ plea agreement did not make clear that a sentencing range formed the basis for his sentence. Therefore, Hughes was not sentenced “based on” the guidelines range, and he is not eligible for a sentence modification.