Eleventh Circuit: Both Defendant and Federal Prosecutors Entitled to Notice and Opportunity to Respond when Court Intends to Rely on New Information in Modification of a Criminal Sentence

Last week the Eleventh Circuit, which sits here in Atlanta, Georgia, decided U.S. v. Jules. The Court held that “when a district court intends to rely on new information in deciding a motion for the modification of a sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2),” both the federal government and the criminal defendant are entitled to notice of the information and an opportunity to respond.

Jules was originally sentenced to 151 months, the bottom of his Guidelines range, for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50+ grams of cocaine base. The Guidelines were subsequently amended to reduce the base offense-level in such a case. Thereafter, Jules requested a modification of his sentence. The probation office sent a memo to the district court detailing misconduct by Jules while in prison. That memo was neither docketed nor provided to either of the parties. The district court relied on the sanctions in the memo in denying Jules’ motion for modification.

The Eleventh Circuit held that, although a defendant in a § 3582(c)(2) proceeding is not afforded all of the protections as at an original sentencing, the “fairness and due process principles embodied in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Sentencing Guidelines’ policy statements, and the reasoning of [the Fifth and Eighth Circuits] compel us to hold that each party must be given notice of and an opportunity to contest new information relied on by the district court in a § 3582(c)(2) proceeding. The court also stated that a hearing is permissible for allowing parties to contest such information, but not necessary.

The Eleventh Circuit’s opinion is available here.