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Criswell v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

February 6, 2017

Derrick Criswell, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          ORDER

          PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Derrick Criswell seeks relief from his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) and 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF Nos. 2199 & 2284). The United States (“Government”) asks the Court to deny Criswell's claims (ECF Nos. 2234 & 2310). Having reviewed the briefs and the record, the Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing. For the reasons stated herein, the Court grants the Government's request and, consequently, denies Criswell's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2013, Criswell pled guilty to four controlled-substance offenses. His plea agreement contained the following stipulations regarding his prison sentence range:

The parties stipulate and agree that the defendant is a career offender and that, pursuant to U.S.S.G. §§ 4B1.1, 3E1.1(a) and 3E1.1(b), his total offense level is 34, with a corresponding sentencing range of 262 to 327 months. In the event that the Court determines that the defendant is not a career offender, the parties stipulate nonetheless that the appropriate sentencing range, prior to any motion for departure by the government, is 262 months to 327 months. The parties understand that these stipulations are not binding on the court, and that should the court not accept these stipulations, the defendant will have no right to withdraw his plea.

(Plea Agreement, ECF No. 1293, at 8-9.) The Court accepted those stipulations.

         At sentencing, the Court did not find that Criswell was a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines. Instead, the Court noted the Guidelines indicated that, due to Criswell's criminal history and the amount of drugs for which he was responsible, he should be imprisoned from 235 to 293 months. As Criswell's presentence investigation report indicated, that calculation was based on Criswell not being subject to the career-offender enhancement in § 4B1.1. After noting that Guidelines range, the Court acknowledged that the stipulated range of 262 months to 327 months controlled. Relying on that stipulated range, the Court sentenced Criswell to 300 months in prison.[1]

         In June 2016, Criswell filed his § 2255 motion, arguing that his sentence was unconstitutional. He later supplemented his § 2255 motion with a request to have his sentence reduced under § 3582(c)(2). The Government responded to each of those two grounds separately. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for consideration.

         DISCUSSION

         Criswell seeks relief from his sentence under both § 3582(c)(2) and § 2255. For the following reasons, the Court concludes that neither avenue of relief is available to him.

         I.§ 3582(c)(2)

         Criswell asks this Court to reduce his sentence pursuant to § 3582(c)(2) and Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which reduced the base offense level for certain drug offenses. Generally, federal courts “may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c). One exception to that rule arises when the defendant “has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission.” Id. § 3582(c)(2).

         Subsection 3582(c)(2) “establishes a two-step inquiry.” Dillon, 560 U.S. at 826. First, the Court must determine whether it is authorized to grant a sentence reduction. See Id. If so, the Court uses its discretion to decide how much of a reduction, if any, is appropriate under the particular circumstances of the case. Id. at 827.

         Criswell's motion fails at step one, as his sentence was not “based on” a Guidelines range. Instead, the Court based his sentence on the ...


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