No Duty for U.S. to Treat Cocaine & Crack Equally
(CN) - A man who saw his life sentence for crack-related crimes reduced to a 30-year term cannot sue to have such crimes treated the same as powder-cocaine infractions, a federal judge ruled.
The current crack-to-powder cocaine ratio, which took effect under the Fair Sentencing Act on Nov. 1, 2011, set the federal mandatory minimums and maximums for crack-related offenses at 18:1, reduced from 100:1. The act also includes significant reductions in the guidelines range.
That adjustment came after Congress had expressly rejected a 1995 report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to establish a 1:1 ratio for crack and powder offenses.
An unrelated amendment to the guidelines had reduced Brian Davis' life sentence to 35 years in 2008. Davis was convicted in 1993 of conspiracy to possess and intent to sell crack and powder cocaine.
The courts have otherwise rejected attempts by Davis to further reduce his sentence.
He filed the action at issue in 2011, and sought in his second amended complaint to have the United States reinstate the 1995 amendments to the sentencing guidelines that would have achieved a 1-to-1 sentencing ratio for crack and powder cocaine.
"In other words, Davis is asking the court to find the commission has a clear duty to act, even in the face of express congressional opposition," the court found. "Not surprisingly, he offers no authority for this novel proposition, nor can the court find any."
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed the complaint Friday, noting that the D.C. Circuit has already ruled that the law is not unconstitutional.
"The circuit recently reaffirmed its conclusion that there is a race-neutral explanation for the sentencing disparity," he wrote.
"Because Congress' refusal to enact the commission's proposed 1:1 ratio did not constitute an unconstitutional violation of equal protection, plaintiff is not entitled to the relief he seeks," Boasberg ruled.