Dorsey v. United States
|Docket No.||Op. Below||Argument||Opinion||Vote||Author||Term|
Apr 17, 2012
|Jun 21, 2012||5-4||Breyer||OT 2011|
Holding: The more lenient mandatory minimum provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act – which reduced the disparity between sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses – apply to defendants who committed a crack cocaine crime before the Act went into effect but were sentenced after its effective date in 2010.
Plain English Summary: In 2010, Congress passed a law that reduced the prison sentences for individuals who are convicted of crimes involving “crack” cocaine, which is the most common form of cocaine distributed on the streets. Congress did not specify whether the shorter sentences applied only to individuals who committed crimes involving “crack” after the law went into effect, or whether it also applied to individuals who committed their crimes before the law was passed but were not sentenced until after the law was enacted. By a vote of five to four, the Court held that the 2010 law applies to everyone who was sentenced after the law went into effect, no matter when they had actually committed their crimes.
Judgment: Vacated and remanded, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Breyer on June 21, 2012. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, in which the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas and Alito joined.
- Opinion recap: Easing the "crack" disparity (Lyle Denniston)
- Argument recap: A dilemma over race (Lyle Denniston)
- Argument preview: The crack cocaine controversy -- again (Lyle Denniston)
Briefs and DocumentsMerits Briefs for the Petitioner
- Brief for the United States
- Brief for Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, NYU School of Law
- Brief for the ACLU et al.
- Brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers et al.
- Brief for Paul Cassell and Nancy Gertner