Under a provision of federal sentencing law, a prior conviction for distribution of a “controlled substance” increases exposure. The question is: whether federal or state law should govern the definition of a controlled substance? The ACLU-NJ joined an amicus brief that agreed with Mr. Lewis’s explanation that federal law provides the only consistent standard, that this standard is required by the text of the Sentencing Guidelines, and that adopting this standard makes good sense.

Our brief explained that the government’s position is both extreme and would create serious negative impacts if adopted. Where the federal government does not control a particular substance, the fact that a particular state does, should not control federal sentencing law.

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Federal Public & Community Defenders, NACDL, ACLU, ACLU-DE, ACLU-PA

Date filed

March 18, 2022


United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit