As issue was whether Whiteside could obtain relief from a sentence in which he had been wrongly classified as a career offender. The panel held that he could not get relief because his petition was filed too late.
The ruling could affect hundreds of defendants who were classified as career offenders based on a prior conviction in Maryland for second-degree assault, an offense that is no longer considered a career-offender predicate. The dissent called the ruling "unjust" because, even though the court agreed that Whiteside had been wrongly sentenced to an excessive period of incarceration, it chose to do nothing to remedy the problem.
Because the panel denied the claim on procedural grounds -- the late filing of the § 2255 motion -- it never considered the substantive question of whether relief would have been granted if the petition had been filed within the one-year filing deadline.
What this means is that, if a defendant was sentenced as a career offender for an offense that is no longer considered a predicate (such as second degree assault) and they filed their 2255 within the one-year period, they may still be able to obtain relief. Surely this is an issue the Circuit will have to consider in the coming year.
On the down side, the overwhelming majority of people who were sentenced as career offenders are outside the one-year filing period. This ruling is undoubtedly a huge setback for them. We at the Firm, however, have not given up on this group. We are actively researching and consulting with other attorneys to formulate a strategy to help them fight for the fairer sentence they should have received in the first place.