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8th Circuit Upholds 60 Month Sentence for Marijuana, Tobacco found on Federal Prisoner.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has affirmed a 60 month sentence for a federal prisoner caught smuggling tobacco and marijuana through visiting.

Tony Ray Ferguson was indicted under 8U.S.C. §1791 (a)(z) for possessing a prohibited object at the Federal Correctional Institution in Forest City, Arkansas after 12 grams of marijuana and 16 grams of tobacco were discovered on Ferguson during a shakedown after a visit.

Ferguson’s guideline range called for a sentence of 6 to 12 months, but the district court imposed a 60 month sentence, the statutory maximum for the offense. The district court’s variance, a 500% increase from the top of the guideline range, was based on the court’s desire “to send a loud and clear message that contraband in prison is not acceptable.” Ferguson appealed arguing, among other things, that the sentence was substantively unreasonable and violated the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed.

The Appeals Court called the degree of the district court’s upward variance – 500% -- “unremarkable” and found no substantive unreasonableness in the sentence. The court also found no Eighth Amendment issue with the sentence “given the serious contraband issues at FCC – Forest City and Ferguson’s extensive criminal history.” See: Ferguson v. United States, 623 F.3d 627 (8th Cir. 2010).

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Related legal case

Ferguson v. United States