Case summaries of recently decided Third Circuit criminal law cases and other relevant updates provided by Federal Defenders and CJA Panel Attorneys.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Letter classification of offense under § 3559(a) does not require reference to guidelines
The Third Circuit in United States v. Lovett, No. 05-4171 (3d Cir. Nov. 6, 2006), rejected the contention that under § 3559(a), the "maximum term of imprisonment authorized" is based on the maximum term of imprisonment authorized by the Guidelines, rather than the statute of conviction. Lovett received a 16-month sentence for his conviction of making a false statement to a federally licensed firearms dealer in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), and, on appeal, challenged only the imposition of his three-year term of supervised release. Since his range would have been 12-18 months, he argued, he would have thus been classified as a Class E felony, for which the term of supervised release would not have exceeded one year. The Third Circuit rejected the argument, reasoning that the classification process in § 3559 requires, first, identifying the offense of conviction, then, if a letter grade has not been assigned, looking to the "maximum term of imprisonment authorized." Because § 3559(a) refers to the "section defining" the criminal offense, the Court concluded that this can only refer to the Federal Crimes Code, not the sentencing guidelines.
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