Quimbee logo
DMCA.com Protection Status
From our private database of 16,800+ case briefs...

Spears v. United States

United States Supreme Court
 555 U.S. 261 (2009)


The federal government (plaintiff) successfully prosecuted Steven Spears (defendant) for conspiracy to distribute cocaine in both its crack and powder forms. Under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG), the recommended sentence for Spears' crime was 324 to 405 months' imprisonment. At the time, and until 2010, the USSG maintained a 100:1 ratio between powder and crack cocaine quantities, meaning that the USSG-recommended sentence for a crime involving one gram of crack cocaine was the same as for a crime involving 100 grams of powder cocaine. The federal district court judge shared the opinion of many other judges that the 100:1 ratio was disproportionately severe. The federal Sentencing Commission agreed with those judges, and had recommended that Congress lower the ratio to 20:1, even in routine ("heartland" or "mine-run") cases. The judge substituted that 20:1 ratio for the 100:1 ratio, which resulted in lowering Spears's sentence to 240 months. The government appealed, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judge's sentencing decision. Spears appealed to the Supreme Court, which vacated the Eighth Circuit's judgment. On remand, the Eighth Circuit once again struck down Spears's sentence on the grounds that the judge could not substitute his 20:1 ratio for the USSG's 100:1 ratio. The Supreme Court agreed to hear Spears's appeal once more.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

What to do next…

  1. Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.

    You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 450,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.

  2. Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.

    Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.

Here's why 450,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:

  • Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 16,800 briefs, keyed to 224 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
  • The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
  • Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
  • Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.

Questions & Answers

Have a question about this case?

Sign up for a free 7-day trial and ask it

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial