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Freeman v. United States

Case Name
Freeman v. United States
564 U.S. 522
Unanimous Decision
Authoring Judge
Anthony Kennedy
Judge(s) - Majority
Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan
Judge(s) - Concur
Sonia Sotomayor
Judge(s) - Dissent
John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito
U.S. Supreme Court
On Review From
6th Circuit
Decision Year


Defendant entered into a plea agreement, under which he would plead guilty to all charges. The Government agreed, in exchange, that a sentence of 106 months would be the appropriate sentence. This was the minimum suggested by the Guidelines range of 46-57 months, along with a consecutive mandatory minimum for possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. The District Court accepted the plea agreement and, considering the advisory guidelines, imposed the 106-month sentence. Three years later, the Sentencing Commission issued a retroactive amendment to the guidelines that reduced Defendant’s sentencing range to 37-46 months. Defendant moved for a sentence reduction. The District Court denied the motion, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. In a plurality opinion, the Court reversed. The Court stated that, even when a plea agreement is involved, the District Court judge is still obligated to give due consideration to the applicable sentencing guidelines range. When sentences are imposed in light of the guidelines, judges may consider a motion to reduce a sentence, even when a plea agreement was involved. Here, the transcript makes in clear that District Court based its sentencing decision on the Guidelines range. Therefore, Defendant is eligible for relief.

Key Quote

“Even when a defendant enters into an 11(c)(1)(C) agreement, the judge’s decision to accept the plea and impose the recommended sentence is likely to be based on the Guidelines; and when it is, the defendant should be eligible to seek § 3582(c)(2) relief. This straightforward analysis would avoid making arbitrary distinctions between similar defendants based on the terms of their plea agreements. And it would also reduce unwarranted disparities in federal sentencing, consistent with the purposes of the Sentencing Reform Act.” (534)