By: Linda Sackey
In part, the First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194, authorizes a reduction of a sentence for a prisoner who is serving a sentence for a covered crack-cocaine offense. Under the First Step Act, the prisoner is entitled to ask a judge to treat him as if the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 had been in force on the date of his original sentence.
At issue in United States v. Hible, 13 F.4th 647 (7th Cir. 2021), was whether a motion to reconsider a decision under the First Step Act extends the time to file an appeal. Each prisoner in the consolidated cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sought a shorter sentence and filed, within the time allowed for appeal, a motion asking the district court to reconsider an adverse decision. The judges in each case denied that motion, and the prisoner appealed. Each prisoner filed a notice of appeal within 14 days of the decision on the motion to reconsider but more than 14 days after the original decision.
Observing that the Supreme Court has held repeatedly that motions to reconsider in criminal cases extend the time for appeal, the Seventh Circuit concluded that a motion to reconsider a decision under the First Step Act suspends the decision’s finality and extends the time to appeal. The court’s ruling was of no help to either prisoner in these cases, as their requests for lower sentences remained denied, but it settles the law in this area going forward.