A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

By Burt Rose
PDF of Opinion 09-1533

The US Supreme Court has ruled in DEPIERRE v. UNITED STATES, 2011 WL 2224426, No. 09–1533 (June 9, 2011), on CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT, 599 F. 3d 25, that “cocaine base” means cocaine in its chemically basic form.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR delivered the opinion of a unanimous Court. At the time of petitioner’s conviction and sentence, federal law mandated a minimum 10-year sentence for persons convicted of certain drug offenses, 21 U. S. C. §841(a), including those involving 50 grams or more of “a mixture or substance . . . which contains cocaine base,” §841(b)(1)(A)(iii), and a minimum 5-year sentence for offenses involving 5 grams or more of the same, §841(b)(1)(B)(iii). This case required the Court to decide whether the term “cocaine base” as used in this statute refers generally to cocaine in its chemically basic form or exclusively to “crack cocaine.” The Court concluded the former is the answer and affirmed the 1st Circuit.

The Criminal Justice Section Student Research Center will re-open on June 13, 2011. The hours of operation will be Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The SRC, located in Room 303 of the Criminal Justice Center (The Jack Meyer’s lawyer’s lounge), offers free case law research for court appointed and CJA counsel. The research is provided by law students from local area law schools. Attorneys wishing to request research assistance on a court appointed case can do so either by visiting the lawyer’s lounge directly and meeting with a law student in person or they may submit a research request online at http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch?appNum=1. To make sure a law student will be available for your project, first contact the lounge at 3-7538 or 3-7539 (CJC internal only) or phillysrc1@gmail.com to check student availability.

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