Thursday, August 11, 2016

Term of Imprisonment is Synonymous with Sentence of Imprisonment under U.S.S.G. §4A1.2

Commonwealth v Hector Rengifo, N. 15-1779, August 5, 2016




   
           This case answers the burning question, “When does a Pennsylvania time served to twelve month sentence equal of sentence of almost two and one-half years for the purposes of the U.S.S.G.?” Mr. Rengifo pled guilty to distributing heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1). Prior convictions though subjected him to the possibility of an enhanced sentence as a “career offender” under U.S.G. 4B1.1(a). Key to whether or not one of those convictions actually counted towards making him a career offender was a prior Pennsylvania conviction for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and for which he received a sentence of time served to twelve months that evolved, by virtue of two parole violations and sentences, into a prior sentence of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month, whenever imposed, that resulted in the defendant being incarcerated during any part of fifteen years within the time the defendant’s instant offense occurred.  U.S.G.G. §§ 4A1.2(e)(1), (e)(2).
            Even though Mr. Rengifo, as the result of his parole violation served only 365 days, i.e., every day of his sentence, the Government contended and the District Court agreed, that U.S.G.G. §4A1.2(k)(1), which states how to measure prior terms of imprisonment, requires adding the time serbed as a result of the violations— 294 days—  not to the original 71 days he served, but to the twelve month sentence he received. Even though “term of imprisonment” is not defined in the guidelines, the Court of appeals that “term of imprisonment” and “sentence of imprisonment” are interchangeable in U.S.G.G. §§ 4A1.2(e)(1), (e)(2) and §4A1.2 (k)(1). The Court of Appeals in fact concluded that as a result of its interpretation of the term of imprison, Mr. Rengifo actually served much more than the government contended, because in the Court’s calculation, just as you counted both the time served and the time left on parole in the original sentence, the District Court was required to do the same with the parole violations, i.e., increase the “term of imprisonment” calculation by adding both the time served after the violation and time left on parole after reparole. In other words, the time from the commencement of a defendants’ sentence until he is ultimately release from supervision and incarceration are lumped together to determine the sentence— 833 days as opposed to the government’s calculation of 659 days. (Perhaps sentences consecutive to a grant of parole grant a reprieve, but I would not count on it.)



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