United States v. Denson, No. 19-11696 (11th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Eleventh Circuit joined the Fifth and Eighth Circuits in concluding that the First Step Act does not require district courts to hold a hearing with the defendant present before ruling on a defendant's motion for a reduced sentence under the Act.
The court affirmed defendant's sentence for distributing more than 5 grams f crack cocaine and held that the district court did not err in reducing defendant's prison sentence on his drug conviction to 188 months, followed by 6 years of supervised release, without first holding a hearing in his presence. To the extent defendant contends that the First Step Act itself gives him a statutory right to attend a hearing, the court agreed with the Fifth and Eighth Circuits, which have concluded that the plain text of the First Step Act does not give a defendant seeking a sentence reduction such a right. Furthermore, defendant's motion is governed by Rule 43 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which expressly provides that defendant's presence is not required in a 18 U.S.C. 3582(c) proceeding. The court also held that defendant's due process claim failed because Rule 43 did not require defendant's presence at a section 3582(c)(1)(B) sentence reduction hearing, and he had no corresponding due process right to be present at such a hearing. Finally, the court held that United States v. Brown, 879 F.3d 1231
(11th Cir. 2018), actually shows that a section 3582(c)(1)(B) proceeding is not a "critical stage" that requires the defendant's presence at a hearing and why Brown undermines defendant's due process claim here.