The Supreme Court on Monday ruled crack cocaine offenders cannot reduce their prison sentences under a 2018 federal law, court filings show.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion in a court filing that Tarahrick Terry, a 33-year-old man from Florida, isn’t included with offenders in the First Step Act, therefore he can’t reduce his prison sentence.
The court ruled unanimously against Terry, who is scheduled to be released from prison in September, according to Reuters. Thomas wrote that the text of the First Step Act led to a “straightforward result.” (RELATED: REPORT: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Left Almost Everything To Her Children, Housekeeper, According To Her Will)
Thomas said that Terry’s argument, backed by President Joe Biden’s administration, constituted a linguistic “sleight of hand,” according to court documents.
“Petitioner[Terry] says that the phrase ‘statutory penalties’ in fact means ‘penalty statute.’ The United States similarly asserts that petitioner is eligible for a sentence reduction if the Fair Sentencing Act changed the ‘penalty scheme.’ But we will not convert nouns to adjectives and vice versa,” Thomas wrote in his opinion.
SCOTUS rules 9-0 that people convicted of certain low-level crack-cocaine offenses are not eligible for re-sentencing under the First Step Act, a 2018 law that made some criminal-justice reforms retroactive. Here is the opinion in Terry v. United States. https://t.co/PEJ5x8ScLq
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) June 14, 2021
The First Step Act, a bill passed with bipartisan congressional support and signed into law by former President Donald Trump, made retroactive another 2010 law, the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced an imbalance in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine crimes.
However, the Trump administration did conclude that possession of low-level crack cocaine was not a “covered offense”, according to Reuters. Covered offense means any violation of the laws that are committed in the jurisdiction of the United States of America, according to Law Insider.
Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a separate opinion that agreed with the ruling but called for Congress to amend the law, according to the court filing. She wrote in her opinion that it is unfair that some offenders did not benefit from the act.
“This is no small injustice,” Sotomayor wrote. “Congress has numerous tools to right this injustice.”
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