108 Iowa L. Rev. 1885 (2023)



The Federal Controlled Substances Act criminalizes the possession of federally declared illicit substances. Under certain criminal statutes, repeat offenders who violate the Controlled Substances Act by possessing illicit substances may be eligible for a sentencing enhancement during federal sentencing under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. But the federal courts of appeals have split as to which jurisdictions’ convictions for illicit substances may qualify as a predicate offense for these enhancements. Some circuits, including the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits, have broadly interpreted these enhancements to apply to federal defendants who have prior convictions for illicit substances that are only illegal at the state level and not the federal level. Other circuits, including the First, Second, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits, require that the underlying prior conviction be for a substance that is federally illegal. This Note argues that a broad interpretation of a “controlled substance offense,” as used in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, diminishes the goal of creating uniformity among federal sentences and results in harmful and arbitrarily disproportionate federal criminal sentences.

Monday, May 15, 2023