November 8, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Illinois. No. 17-cr-40043 - J. Phil Gilbert,
Flaum, Manion, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
Sanders pleaded guilty to a federal drug offense. About
twenty years earlier, she was convicted of a felony drug
offense in California, and therefore, the government sought
to impose a ten-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment
pursuant to a recidivist enhancement provision, 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(b)(1)(B). After her guilty plea, but before
sentencing, a California state court reclassified
Sanders's state drug offense as a misdemeanor pursuant to
Proposition 47, Cal. Penal Code § 1170.18. Nevertheless,
the district court still imposed the ten-year mandatory
minimum. We affirm.
12, 2017, the government charged Vickie Sanders with
conspiracy to manufacture fifty grams or more of
methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846 (Count 1); attempting to
manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C), and 846 (Count 2); and
possession of pseudoephedrine knowing it would be used to
manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(c)(2) (Counts 3, 4, 5, and 6).
twenty years earlier, in 1996, a California state court
convicted Sanders of felony possession of a controlled
substance in violation of Cal. Health & Safety Code
§ 11350(a). That conviction became final in 1998. On
September 20, 2017, the government filed an information to
establish that Sanders had been previously convicted of a
felony drug offense in California. A prior state felony
conviction triggers the § 841(b)(1)(B) recidivist
enhancement, which raised the mandatory minimum term of
imprisonment on Count 1 from five to ten years. On October 6,
2017, Sanders pleaded guilty to all charges and indicated she
understood her prior drug conviction impacted the applicable
sentencing range. On December 7, 2017, the probation office
prepared a Presentence Investigation Report. It determined
that Sanders's advisory Guidelines range was 87-108
months' imprisonment for Counts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. For
Count 1, due to the ten-year statutory minimum, the
Guidelines term of imprisonment was 120 months.
January 11, 2018, Sanders filed a motion to continue her
sentencing hearing. Eleven days later, a California state
court reclassified her 1996 felony drug conviction as a
misdemeanor pursuant to California Proposition 47, Cal. Penal
Code § 1170.18. Then, on February 8, Sanders objected to
the § 841(b)(1)(B) enhancement for a prior felony drug
conviction, emphasizing her prior state conviction was no
longer a felony. On April 27, the district court overruled
9, the district court sentenced Sanders to concurrent
sentences of 120 months' imprisonment on Count 1 and 87
months' imprisonment on Counts 2 through 6. It imposed an
eight-year term of supervised release on Count 1, a six-year
term of supervised release on Count 2, and a three-year term
of supervised release on Counts 3 through 6, all to run
concurrently. The court also imposed a $300 fine and $600
special assessment. This appeal followed.
argues that because a California court reclassified her prior
conviction as a misdemeanor, the district court improperly
imposed a ten-year mandatory minimum prison term under §
841(b)(1)(B), or alternatively, did so in violation of the
Constitution. We review questions of statutory interpretation
and constitutionality de novo. Arreola-Castillo v. United
States, 889 F.3d 378, 384 (7th Cir. 2018); United
States v. Morris, 821 F.3d 877, 879 (7th Cir. 2016).
21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)
841(b) outlines the penalties for federal drug crimes based
upon the quantity of drugs involved and the number of prior
drug convictions." Arreola-Castillo, 889 F.3d
at 384. Relevant here, "[i]f any person commits [a
federal drug offense] after a prior conviction for a felony
drug offense has become final/' that individual faces a
mandatory minimum of ten years' imprisonment. 21 U.S.C.
impose a recidivism penalty under § 841, the government
must follow the procedures in 21 U.S.C. § 851."
Arreola-Castillo, 889 F.3d at 384. First, the
government "must file an information with the sentencing
court stating the previous convictions to be relied
upon." Id. (citing 21 U.S.C. § 851(a)).
Then, the defendant can file a written response either to
deny the allegation of the prior conviction or to assert that
the alleged conviction is invalid. Id. (citing 21
U.S.C. § 851(c)). If the defendant files a response, the