Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

OSJCL Amici Board of Advisors

OSJCL Amici: Views from the Field

Spears v. United States

  • Per curium opinion issued on January 21, 2009.
  • Background: Steven Spears was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The sentencing guidelines required Spears’ sentence to be calculated based on a 100:1 ratio of crack cocaine to powder cocaine quantities. But the District Court believed that this calculation yielded an excessive sentence, so it recalculated his sentence based on a 20:1 ratio of crack to powder cocaine.
  • Holding: The Supreme Court held that the District Court had authority to replace the sentencing guidelines’ ratio with its own because the guidelines are merely advisory.



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