Miscalculations in Guideline range claims cannot be brought in § 2255 petitions (United States v. Coleman, No. 12-2621 (7th Cir.))

United States v. Coleman, No. 12-2621 (7th Cir.). Decided August 14, 2014. The defendant in this case pled guilty to a controlled substance violation involving crack cocaine. The defendant was considered a career offender under § 4B1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines because he had two prior crimes of violence, one being a cocaine charge and the other a sexual assault charge. The career offender designation increased his guideline range from 140-175 months to 188-235 months, and the defendant was ultimately sentenced to 225 months. Subsequent case law determined that the sexual assault charge did not constitute a crime of violence. Therefore, defendant should not have been considered a career offender under § 4B1.1 and he correspondingly should have received a shorter sentence.

Defendant filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which is a federal collateral attack mechanism that is similar to  Illinois’ Post-Conviciton Hearing Act, arguing that he was improperly sentenced as a career offender and that he should receive a new sentencing hearing. The trial court allowed the motion, and resentenced the defendant to 120 months after he also received additional downward variances due to another change in the law that affected his base level calculation. The government appealed, arguing that that the defendant’s argument was sound but that it could not be properly raised in a § 2255 petition.

In support of its position, the government argued that the court’s recent decision in Hawkins v. United States, 706 F.3d 820 (7th Cir. 2013) was controlling. The Coleman court indicated that,”In Hawkins, this court recognized that “not every error is corrigible in a post-conviction proceeding, even if the error is not harmless.” 706 F.3d at 823. Relief under § 2255 is available “only in extraordinary situations, such as an error of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude or where a fundamental defect has occurred which results in a complete miscarriage of justice.” Blake v. United States, 723 F.3d 870, 878–79 (7th Cir. 2013). “[D]eviations from the Sentencing Guidelines generally are not cognizable on a § 2255 motion.” Welch v. United States, 604 F.3d 408, 412 (7th Cir. 2010); Scott v. United States, 997 F.2d 340, 343 (7th Cir. 1993). In Hawkins, we held that the erroneous determination that the petitioner was a career offender in calculating his sentence was not a cognizable error under § 2255 post-Booker. Hawkins, 706 F.3d 820; see United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005).” Pg. 4. The Hawkins court held that “the error in calculating the Guidelines range did not constitute a miscarriage of justice for § 2255 purposes given the advisory nature of the Guidelines and the district court’s determination that the sentence was appropriate and that it did not exceed the statutory maximum.” The Coleman court relied on its prior decision in Hawkins to reach the same conclusion: namely, that miscalculations in Guideline range claims could not be brought under § 2255.

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