United States v. Dixon, No. 10-4300 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
In March 2010, defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base (21 U.S.C. 846) and possession of an unregistered firearm (26 U.S.C. 5861(d)). At the time, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 mandated penalties for powder cocaine and crack cocaine according to a 100:1 ratio, so that conviction for five grams of crack cocaine resulted in the same five-year mandatory minimum term as a conviction involving 500 grams of powder cocaine. Before defendant's sentencing, the Fair Sentencing Act, 21 U.S.C. 841, became law in August 2010. The FSA reduced the crack/powder ratio to approximately 18:1; the five-year mandatory minimum penalty for crack is not triggered until a person possesses 28 grams and the 10-year mandatory minimum penalty is not triggered until a person possesses 280 grams. The Act does not state whether it should apply retroactively. The district court imposed a sentence of 121 months, based on the 1986 Act. The Third Circuit vacated, concluding that the FSA requires application of the new mandatory minimum sentencing provisions to all defendants sentenced on or after August 3, 2010, regardless of when the offense conduct occurred.