Amendment 782 Relief Available For Money Laundering Charge

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reversed the denial of an Amendment 782 motion. The defendant was sentenced for federal drug and money laundering charges. The lower court found Amendment 782 inapplicable on the basis that it did not affect the defendant's money laundering sentencing. Roberto Torres was sentenced to 262 months for drug charges and 240 months for money laundering. Torres' total offense level was level 39. Torres later sought a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) in light of Amendment 782. The party's agreed that Amendment 782 lowered Torres' advisory Guideline range to 210-262 months. Thus, Torres was eligible for a sentence reduction of up to 52 months.

However, the district judge denied Amendment 782 relief. The district judge agreed that he had the authority to reduce Torres' sentenced to 240 months on the drug count but apparently felt that Torres would have a better shot at winning on appeal if the motion was denied entirely. So that's what the district judge did.

On appeal, Torres argued that:

"the district court erred in not recognizing that his money laundering conviction was subject to the same reduction as were the drug-trafficking offenses. He bases his assertion on the language of the guidelines. Section 2S1.1, which the PSR identified and the district court applied, deals with “laundering of Monetary Instruments.” It prescribes the use of “the offense level for the underlying offense from which the laundered funds were derived, if ... the defendant committed the underlying offense.” U.S.S.G. § 2S1.1(a)(1). And that is what the PSR recommended—that Torres's offense level for money laundering be identical to the level for drug-trafficking."

The Fifth Circuit agreed.

"The significant point is that the money laundering offense level was entirely dependent on the drug-trafficking level. And neither side disputes that Amendment 782, properly applied to Torres's drug-trafficking offense levels, reduce those levels from 39 to 37. But any reduction or increase in the drug-trafficking level would induce a corresponding change in the money-laundering level; Section 3582(c)(2) refers specifically to sentencing range, not any given offense. Thus, the district court's stated view that its hands were tied with regard to reducing the money laundering sentence was error. If a reduction was appropriate for the drug-trafficking offense levels, then it was appropriate for money-laundering as well."

While Torres did not object to the district court's error, the Fifth Circuit found that the lower court's denial of the motion constituted plain error. Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit vacated the district judge's denial of Torres' motion and remanded for further proceedings. United States v. Torres, No. 16-50320 (5th Cir. 2017). Relief

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Leave a Comment

Recommended for you

Federal Halfway House – Everything You Need To Know

Over the past several weeks, I have received numerous e-mails and calls from different individuals concerning federal halfway house placements that have been reduced significantly—or denied entirely—by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). What is going on? A variety of things, it seems. I.  Federal Halfway House – A Brief Overview The BOP has long…

Read More

The First Step Act Bill Summary Explained : A Comprehensive Analysis

The First Step Act 2018 Bill Summary: On December 21, 2018, the President signed into law The First Step Act 2018, a bipartisan effort to reform the federal criminal justice system. The Law Office of Brandon Sample has assembled this detailed analysis of the First Step Act 2018 to help the public understand the ins…

Read More

Sentencing Reform And Federal Prison News – January 2018

We are a week into 2018 and there is much buzz about what lies ahead in the year from the courts, Congress, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission for federal prison and sentencing reform. Here’s a summary of some of the highlights. (a) Congress – Sentencing Reform Different bills remain under consideration, but none have yet…

Read More