Wednesday, March 23, 2005

3rd Cir Issues More Booker remands

In two not-precedential cases, the 3rd Cir has continued its policy of remanding for resentencing under Booker where the district court, in sentencing before Booker, treated the guidelines range as mandatory.

In US v. Spivey, (No. 04-2057, 3/22/05), the Circuit issued its most extensive (although still brief) discussion of plain error. The Court stated that plain error analysis applies since no Sixth Amendment objection was raised at sentencing. The Court then noted that it was "at least arguable" that the sentence did not violate the Sixth Amendment since defense counsel admitted to the enhancement in question which increased the defendant's criminal history.

Even without the Sixth Amendment violation, however, the Court found remand was required under Booker because "the District Court's mandatory application of the Guidelines to Spivey's sentence was in error, and we cannot say from the record before us whether that error 'had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the [sentence].'" (Citing Kotteakos). The Court then concluded with the language used in all its Booker remands: "Therefore, having determined that the sentencing issues Spivey raises are best determined by the District Court in the first instance, we will vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing in accordance with Booker." This case thus continues the Circuit's policy of remanding for resentencing in any case where the district court viewed the guidelines as mandatory, regardless of whether there was an objection and regardless of whether there was a Sixth Amendment violation.

In US v. Simmons (No. 03-2013 3/22/05), the Circuit remanded for resentencing under Booker even though the defendant had received an upward departure. The defendant there, prior to Blakely, had originally appealed his sentence of 48 months on the ground that the judge improperly departed upward from the guideline range based on underrepresentation of criminal history. Defense counsel sought to supplement after Blakely, and the Court held the case under advisement pending Booker. In remanding, the Court said only that the Booker sentencing issues "are best determined by the district court in the first instance." This case makes clear that remand is appropriate even when the sentence was pursuant to an upward departure.

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The District Court's indication of the sentence it would impose before the defendant allocuted was not reversible plain error.

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