Friday, October 20, 2006

Sentences for Class B and C misdemeanors must be reviewed under pre-Guidelines standard applicable to those offenses

Grand jury target Jelanie Solomon was convicted of criminal contempt for failing to provide handwriting exemplars ordered by the district court. He was sentenced to 5 months imprisonment on the contempt conviction, thus classifying the conviction as a Class B misdemeanor. On appeal, the parties disagreed over the standard of review to be applied. The government argued that the sentence should be reviewed for an abuse of discretion, while Solomon argued that his sentence must be reviewed for "reasonableness" under United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). The Third Circuit noted that while the Guidelines were still mandatory, the circuits were divided on the standard of appellate review. In re Solomon, Nos. 06-2819, 06-2820 (3d Cir. Oct. 2, 2006). Upon present consideration, the Court found that the exclusion of Class B and C misdemeanors from the Guidelines provisions was intended to place those offenses entirely outside the statutory scheme, including the appellate review provisions contained in 18 U.S.C. § 3742(e). Accordingly, the Court held that appellate review of sentences imposed for Class B and C misdemeanors must be conducted under the pre-Guidelines standard applicable to those offenses, rather than the reasonableness test set forth in Booker. The standard of review applicable to criminal contempt offenses was abuse of discretion. The Court ultimately found that the five month sentence imposed in Solomon's case was not an abuse of discretion.

By ruling in this fashion, the Third Circuit noted that it need not contend with a question currently dividing the other circuits - namely, the continued viability of the "plainly unreasonable" standard of review.

The Court made two additional rulings in this case. First, it concluded that the government made a sufficient preliminary showing that the handwriting exemplars were relevant to the grand jury's investigation to warrant contempt charges. Second, the Court ruled that the district court's order denying Solomon's motion to quash search warrant for his blood and saliva did not qualify for interlocutory review under the collateral order doctrine.

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