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Kimbrough v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

October 2, 2007, Argued; December 10, 2007, Decided

No. 06-6330

Opinion

 [*90]   [**564] Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

This Court's remedial opinion in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 244, 125 S. Ct. 738, 160 L. Ed. 2d 621 (2005), instructed district courts to read the United States Sentencing Guidelines as "effectively advisory," id., at 245, 125 S. Ct. 738, 160 L. Ed. 2d 621. In accord with 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), the Guidelines, formerly mandatory, now serve as one factor among several courts must consider in determining an appropriate sentence. Booker further instructed that "reasonableness"  [*91]  is the standard controlling appellate review of the sentences district courts impose.

Under the statute criminalizing the manufacture and distribution of crack cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 841, and the relevant Guidelines prescription, § 2D1.1, a drug trafficker dealing in crack cocaine is subject to the same sentence as one dealing in 100 times more powder cocaine. The question here presented is whether, as the Court of Appeals held in this case, "a sentence . . . outside the guidelines range is per se unreasonable when it is based on a disagreement with the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses." 174 Fed. Appx. 798, 799 (CA4 2006) (per curiam).  We hold that,  [****14] under Booker, the cocaine Guidelines, like all other Guidelines, are advisory only, and that the Court of Appeals erred in holding the crack/powder disparity effectively mandatory. A district judge must include the Guidelines range in the array of factors warranting consideration. The judge may determine, however, that, in the particular case, a within-Guidelines sentence is "greater than necessary" to serve the objectives of sentencing. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) (2000 ed. and Supp. V). In making that determination, the judge may consider the disparity between the Guidelines' treatment of crack and powder cocaine offenses.

In September 2004, petitioner Derrick Kimbrough was indicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and charged with four offenses: conspiracy to distribute crack and powder cocaine; possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute powder cocaine; and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. Kimbrough pleaded guilty to all four charges.

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552 U.S. 85 *; 128 S. Ct. 558 **; 169 L. Ed. 2d 481 ***; 2007 U.S. LEXIS 13082 ****; 76 U.S.L.W. 4023; 21 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 22

DERRICK KIMBROUGH, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

United States v. Kimbrough, 174 Fed. Appx. 798, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 11524 (4th Cir. Va., 2006)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

sentence, Guidelines, crack, ratio, powder, crack cocaine, disparity, district court, powder cocaine, offenses, grams, advisory, mandatory, sentencing court, mandatory minimum, quantities, impose sentence, calculating, courts, levels, statutory minimum, unwarranted, deviate, factors, court of appeals, trafficking, effective, offender, firearm, mandatory minimum sentence

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Imposition of Sentence, Factors, Sentencing Guidelines, General Overview, Controlled Substances, Delivery, Distribution & Sale, Penalties, Manufacture