After years fighting a war on drugs, State A decides to amend its sentencing guidelines to reduce the number of people in prison for drug offenses. The statute (Section 101) reduces the minimum sentence for all convictions for possession of illegal substances from ten years to five years.
In State A, convicted individuals can request a downward adjustment in their sentences to the minimum sentence under the guidelines. In other words, laws that reduce, but not increase, minimum sentences apply retroactively. To placate some legislators who were unhappy with the sentencing amendments, State A includes an additional provision in Section 101. The provision prohibits any convicted individual who received a sentence greater than five years but lower than the previous minimum of ten years from requesting a downward adjustment.
C was convicted of drug possession three years before the amendments were passed. Under the old sentencing guidelines, C was given an eight-year sentence for possession of methamphetamine, which was lower than the minimum at the time of ten years. Because C received a sentence below the previous minimum, C is prohibited under Section 101 from receiving a downward adjustment.
Despite the prohibition in the new sentencing scheme, C requests a downward adjustment of his sentence from eight years to five years. He argues that Section 101, by excluding him from requesting a downward adjustment, amounts to an ex post facto law in violation of the Constitution. Without the prohibition, C’s could have his sentence reduced to the new minimum, which would require him to serve only two more years in prison instead of five more years. Assume that C is bringing an as-applied challenge to Section 101.
- How should the court rule? Explain, applying solely the Ex Post Facto Clause.
How should the court rule? Explain, applying solely the Ex Post Facto Clause.