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Second Circuit Upholds Downward Departure That Allows Defendant to Enter Drug Treatment Program


December 1995

On September 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower court's downward departure for a defendant to allow him to enroll in a prison drug rehabilitation program (U.S. v. Williams, No. 94-1694, 65 F.3d 301 (2nd Cir. 1995)).

Michael Williams was convicted of selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer on two occasions. He was originally sentenced to 130-162 months under the Sentencing Guidelines. The judge determined that there were certain special circumstances in Williams' case that would allow for a sentence reduction to a five-year mandatory minimum and an extension of his supervised release term.

Without the reduction in sentence, Williams would not have been eligible for a prison drug treatment pilot program. The court cautioned that it was not reducing the sentence simply because Williams seemed a likely candidate for treatment, but that a "sentence within the guideline range would effectively deprive him of his only opportunity to rehabilitate himself while incarcerated."