Each year, in a cycle running from October to June, the U.S. Supreme Court hears and decides about 70 criminal and civil cases. Its opinions on these important cases clarify, change, limit, or enhance existing laws and constitutional rights. Sometimes, these appeals include legal challenges to sentencing laws, including mandatory minimums. Occasionally, FAMM will get involved in one of these appeals by working with outside lawyers to prepare and file a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief. The Supreme Court reads our brief when deciding the case and sometimes even cites it in the opinion!
FAMM does not provide legal advice or representation to people going through the criminal justice system or trying to get out of prison sooner. Defendants and prisoners should speak with a federal or state public defender or a private criminal defense attorney if they need legal help or think that filing an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court may benefit them.
Here are some important U.S. Supreme Court cases, many of which FAMM has been involved in:
- United States v. Koons — involves a federal law that allows a judge to avoid imposing a mandatory minimum when a defendant has provided what is known as “substantial assistance” in the investigation or prosecution of a crime.
- Rosales-Mireles v. United States — questions when an appeals court should reverse a sentence for what is called “plain error.”
- Dean v. United States — taking mandatory minimum sentences into account for separate charges
- Mathis v. United States — Armed Career Criminal Act triggered by “generic burglary”
- Johnson v. United States — Armed Career Criminal Act and the “residual clause”
- Burrage v. United States — mens rea requirement in “death results” drug cases
- Descamps v. United States — prior convictions and Armed Career Crimianl Act
- Alleyne v. United States — requirements on prosecutors seeking mandatory minimum sentences
- Peugh v. United States — ex post facto issues with sentencing guidelines
- Dorsey v. United States and Hill v. United States — “pipeline” crack cocaine offenders
- United States v. Simmons — changed the way courts consider prior NC state convictions
- Pepper v. United States Heard by Supreme Court — 8th Circuit ban on post sentencing rehab
- Other Cases and Helpful Links