United States v. Sanders, No. 18-2165 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Sanders pleaded guilty to a federal drug offense. About 20 years earlier, she had been convicted of a felony drug offense in California, so the government sought to impose a 10-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment under a recidivist enhancement provision, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(B). After her guilty plea, but before sentencing, a California state court reclassified Sanders’s state drug offense as a misdemeanor under Proposition 47. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the imposition of the enhancement and the 120-month sentence. Sanders both committed a federal drug offense and was convicted of a prior felony drug offense in California that had become final. California’s later decision to reclassify the felony as a misdemeanor does not alter the historical fact of the prior state conviction becoming final—which is what section 841 requires. The court also rejected challenges under the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses and the Tenth Amendment’s federalism principles. Federal law, not state law, dictates the meaning of a federal statute.