Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, July 10, 2017

Melton: Promise to File 5K or Rule 35 Motion is Not a Promise to File a 3553(e) Motion

In United States v. Melton, et al. Nos. 15-15738, 15-15743 (July 10, 2017) (Ed Carnes, Rosenbaum, Higginbotham), the Court reversed orders granting defendants relief under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2) to sentences below the statutory minimum based on 18 U.S.C. 3553(e).

Generally, a defendant sentenced to the statutory minimum is not entitled to a reduction under 3582(c)(2).  The district court went below the statutory minimum here by effectively forcing the government to file a 18 U.S.C. 3553(e) motion, believing that this was necessary in order to give the defendants the benefit of their plea agreement.  The Court reversed because, although the plea agreement contemplated the government filing a 5K1.1  or Rule 35 motion (and the government did in fact file a 5K motion at the original sentencing), the agreement said nothing at all about a 3553(e) motion.  And the Court refused to imply such a promise into the agreement, distinguishing between 3553(e), 5K, and Rule 35.  Because the plea agreement did not include such a 3553(e) promise, the Court concluded that the district court lacked authority to re-write the agreement and go below the statutory minimum when granting 3582(c)(2) relief.  The Court declined to address whether the government is permitted to file a 3553(e) motion in a 3582(c)(2) proceeding in order to give the defendant the benefit of his bargain.