DEFENDER SERVICES OFFICE
TRAINING DIVISION





CRACK COCAINE SENTENCING >
ANOMALIES RESULTING FROM THE DRUG QUANTITY TABLE

2007 CRACK COCAINE GUIDELINE AMENDMENT

Currently, the lowest ratios incorporated into the amended Drug Quantity Table of §2D1.1 only operate at base offense level 26. This results in within range-anomalies and wildly disparate ratios between crack and powder cocaine. See Kimbrough v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 558, 573 (2007)("[a]s a result of the 2007 amendment,. . .the Guidelines now advance a crack/powder ratio that varies (at different offense levels) between 25 to 1 and 80 to 1"). When the Commission promulgates a guideline that is based on "unsound judgment,"such as the arbitrary crack/powder ratios animating the drug quantity table, courts may exercise discretion to reject that provision. See Rita v. United States, 127 S.Ct. 2456, 2468 (2007); Spears v. United States, _ S.Ct._, 2009 WL 129044 (Jan. 21, 2008) (per curiam) (reaffirming holding in Kimbrough that sentencing judges are entitled to reject and vary from crack cocaine guidelines based on policy disagreements, i.e., that 100:1 crack/powder ratio creates unwarranted disparity); see also U.S. v. Taylor, 586 F. Supp. 2d 1065, 1069. (E.D.Wis. Oct. 29, 2008) (finding that continued flaws and disparity in crack to powder ratio supports non-guideline sentence where had defendant possessed only powder cocaine, his base offense level would have been 22 rather than 30, and his range 46-57 months rather than 108-135).

For a more thorough discussion of present anomalies and suggestions on how to argue against unwarranted disparity still existing between the guidelines treatment of crack and powder cocaine offenses seeGood Math to Fight the Bad Math: Avoiding Unwarranted Disparity by Applying the Commission's Lowest Accepted Ratios to All Offense Levels.