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March 6, 2006

Eighth Circuit vacates another below-guideline sentence

The Eighth Circuit, with a number of notable rulings today showing up on this official opinion page, continues its busy sentencing ways.  Of today's rulings, US vs. Rivera, No. 05-2143 (8th Cir. Mar. 6, 2006) (available here), caught my eye because the Eighth Circuit yet again vacates another below-guideline sentence.  As detailed in this post (and in an informative comment), the Eighth Circuit has a history of scrutinizing below-guideline sentences very closely.

Given the Eighth Circuit's history, perhaps what is most notable about Rivera is that the panel does not declare a sentence of 60 months (down from a guideline range of 188-235) to be unreasonable.  Rather the Rivera court concludes that "on the record before us, we are unable to make a reasonableness determination and therefore reverse and remand for resentencing."   And, based on the record as discussed by the Rivera court, this seems like a sound conclusion.

Notably, as detailed here, AG Alberto Gonzales when calling for a legislative "Booker fix" last summer expressed concerns about defendants "receiving sentences dramatically lower than the guidelines range without any explanation."  The Rivera decision, and others like it noted here and here, suggest that appellate review for reasonableness will ensure that district courts fully explain reasons why they believe a below-guideline sentence is appropriate.

March 6, 2006 at 01:14 PM | Permalink


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