Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A defendant cannot make a collateral challenge of a state sentence by challenging the reasonableness of his federal sentence.


            Appellant Raymond Anthony Napolitan challenged his federal sentence arguing that it was unreasonable to run the federal sentence consecutive to an invalid state sentence.  Napolitan was sentenced under a Pennsylvania state law that increased the mandatory minimum for sexual and simple assault, if committed with a firearm.  Under state sentencing procedure, the judge had to determine by a preponderance of the evidence if the defendant possessed a firearm and used it to frighten the victim.   That sentencing procedure was later determined to be unconstitutional following the Supreme Court decision in Alleyne v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2151 (2013), which requires that a fact that may increase a statutory minimum sentence be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

                In United States v. Napolitan, the Third Circuit held that an defendant cannot collaterally challenge a state court sentence as part of a federal sentencing challenge unless (1) he is raising a Gideon violation or (2) the applicable federal statute or sentencing guideline directly permits the collateral attack.  In reaching this decision the appellate court looked at the precedent established in Custis v. United States, 511 U.S. 485 (1994), where the Supreme Court held that a defendant cannot collaterally attack a state conviction through an appeal of a federal sentence.  The circuit court explained that it was illogical to allow a collateral attack on a state sentence via an appeal of a federal sentence, when similar collateral attacks on state convictions are prohibited.  Additionally, the Third Circuit noted that all other circuit courts to address this issue have reached the same conclusion, barring collateral attacks of a prior state sentence in a federal sentencing appeal, including the Second, Sixth and Ninth Circuits.  Finally, the appellate court reasoned that there were other ways for the appellant to challenge the state sentence including filing a habeas petition. 

 

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