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Friday, July 21, 2006

Grier decision on burden of proof at sentencing vacated and rehearing en banc ordered

As noted in an earlier blog posting, a panel of the 3rd Cir. in US v. Grier ruled on June 7th that the burden of proof on the government at sentencing regarding sentencing factors under the guidelines is by a preponderance in the post-Booker world. The court ruled that this lower standard applied even if the enhancement required finding that the defendant had committed another offense. Along the way, the panel also partially overturned the late Judge Becker's seminal decision in US v. Kikumura, 918 F.2d 1084 (3d Cir. 1990), which had ruled that facts which trigger a large increase in the offense level should be subject to a higher standard -- proof by clear and convincing evidence. Id. at 1101. The panel in Grier was split 2-1, with a vigorous and compelling dissent by Judge Sloviter.

On July 19, 2006, the 3rd Cir. granted Assistant Federal Defender Ronald Krauss' petition for rehearing en banc in Grier (click here), vacating the panel decision. The en banc argument will take place in November.

What this means, at least, is that the Kikumura "clear and convincing" standard for large ("tail that wags the dog") adjustments is once again the law of the circuit, and may very well be restored permanently. In addition, the en banc court could also agree with Judge Sloviter's "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard for adjustments, relevant conduct and other factfinding that increases a sentence and which would, in and of itself, establish a separate crime. Defense counsel should definitely be advocating or at least preserving those positions.

(Peter Goldberger contributed to this posting.)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Arrest warrant permits entry into dwelling if police have probable cause to believe that defendant is residing at and present in the residence

In United States v. Veal, No. 05-1612 (3d Cir. July 3, 2006), the Third Circuit held that under Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 603 (1980), an arrest warrant founded on probable cause carries with it the limited authority to enter a dwelling if there is probable cause to believe that the suspect lives there and is located within. The Court noted that some courts have held that the police only need reasonable suspicion to believe that the suspect is residing at the location and present within to support entry into the dwelling under Payton, but the Third Circuit, under its own precedent, applied the probable cause standard.

In the case at hand, the Court cited numerous factors supporting the police's probable cause belief that Veal resided at his wife's home and was present in the residence on the day of his arrest. These factors included,among other things, the timing of the arrest, Veal's fugitive status, the presence of a car that he was known to drive outside the residence, his marriage to the listed resident of the home, and the fact that he had previously been living with his wife.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

§ 4243 commitment orders after acquittal by reason of insanity appealable

The Third Circuit, in United States v. Stewart, No. 05-2732 (3d Cir. July 3, 2006), joined a few sister circuits in holding that a commitment order rendered under 18 U.S.C. § 4243 after a defendant's acquittal by reason of insanity was appealable. The Court further noted that it would review such claims for clear error. Finally, the Court affirmed the district court's denial of release to Mr. Stewart because testimony at his commitment hearing revealed that he required supervision and Stewart could not guarantee that he would receive the appropriate supervision upon his release.