Michael C. Vega

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Northern Illinois University Law Review


This Comment discusses the lack of ordered procedure in assessing motions brought pursuant to § 404 of the First Step Act of 2018. For nearly a quarter century, federal cocaine sentencing subjected crack-cocaine offenses dealing in one-hundredth the quantity of drug to the same statutory penalty as powder-cocaine offenses. This disparate treatment of drug offenses impacted primarily African Americans. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the disparity but applied only prospectively. Section 404 of the First Step Act made certain provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. In the ensuing years, the federal courts have disagreed on the precise scope of a district court’s authority in assessing § 404 motions. This is to say that federal courts do not apply consistent procedure in assessing § 404 motions which presents an issue that the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 sought to eliminate—disparate differences in federal sentencing between similarly situated defendants. This Comment endorses an approach to assessing § 404 motions for reduced sentences which would require district courts to follow the familiar analytical framework of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

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College of Law



Suggested Citation

Michael C. Vega, Comment, Instilling Ordered Procedure in Assessing Motions for Reduced Sentences Under Section 404 of the First Step Act, 43 N. Ill. Univ. L. Rev. 181 (2023).

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