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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit rules in case challenging sentencing distinction between cocaine base and cocaine

In USA v. Williams (ND Ind., Judge Springmann), a 19-page opinion, Judge Kanne writes:

Sylvanus Williams was arrested after police found a stolen gun in his car and marijuana in a bag that he had left behind in a store. A search of his car led to additional drug-related charges being brought by the United States, and after two years of pre-trial wrangling a jury convicted him on three counts. He raises four issues on appeal: he challenges the admission of certain evidence which he argues was seized in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, he argues that his right to due process of law was denied, he challenges the district court’s sentence, and he challenges the constitutionality of the United States Sentencing Guidelines’ distinction between cocaine base and cocaine powder. Because we find no error, we affirm. * * *

Finally, the appellant argues that the one hundred-to-one sentencing ratio for crack versus powder cocaine is unconscionable and unconstitutional. Whether the ratio is unconscionable is a matter for Williams to raise with the legislature. Whether the ratio is unconstitutional is an argument that was not made at sentencing, so we review it for plain error. As the appellant concedes, our circuit precedent is clear that the ratio is not a violation of the Constitution. See United States v. Miller, 450 F.3d 270, 275 (7th Cir. 2006). There was no error.

III. CONCLUSION. In ruling on the various motions to suppress, the district court did not make any findings of fact that are clearly erroneous and did not err on any questions of law. The district court did not deprive Williams of due process in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The sentencing regime in place under Booker remains constitutional, and the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has been considered on numerous occasions by this court. Accordingly the judgment and sentence of the district court are AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 1, 2007 01:14 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions