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United States v. Hart

3rd Circuit

December 21, 2020

The Third Circuit ran into a novel issue surrounding the First Step Act in United States v. Hart. The Act was passed in 2018, and it made retroactive certain reductions in mandatory-minimum sentences that were passed into law in 2012. Under the Act, eligible prisoners could petition to reduce their sentences per the 2012 reductions. After the Act was passed, a committee of individuals from the Federal Defender’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office negotiated a large number of new sentences for eligible prisoners. Mr. Hart was one such prisoner, and he accepted the sentence the committee negotiated for him. But as the caselaw developed — most notably United States v. Easter, 975 F.3d 318 (3d Cir. 2020) —  Mr. Hart realized that he might have left a few years on the table. So he petitioned a second time for a reduction under the Act. The 3rd Circuit held that the Act prohibits a second bite at the apple. But the 3rd Circuit found that provision to be non-jurisdictional. And since the government consented to a new sentencing hearing, the 3rd Circuit remanded the case for Mr. Hart to be sentenced a third time.

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