Monday, June 19, 2023

SCOTUS: Federal judges have discretion to impose concurrent or consecutive sentences

In a recent slip opinion, the US Supreme Court declared that a federal sentencing law gives district courts discretion to impose either concurrent or consecutive sentences for certain drug-related crimes. The case is an appeal from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, reported Jurist.

Justice Ketanji Brown authored the unanimous opinion. The Court ruled that 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(D)(ii)‘s ban on concurrent sentences does not apply to offenses under 18 U.S.C. § 924(j) and that district courts have discretion to run sentences under them consecutively or concurrently. The Court noted that (j) does not mention or incorporate the penalties in (c). Additionally, the Court noted that combining the subsections would set them on a “collision course.” The Court vacated the judgment of the appeals court and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The petitioner was convicted in district court for his role in a drug-related murder and conspiring to distribute drugs. The district court held that it did not have discretion to make his sentences consecutive or concurrent because of § 924(c)(1)(D)(ii)’s bar. The appeals court affirmed this decision.

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