July 29, 2009
Split DC Circuit says federal judges cannot increase a prison sentence for rehabilitative reasons
As detailed in this post from The BLT, the DC Circuit ruled yesterday that federal district judges "cannot use a greater likelihood of rehabilitation to justify a longer prison sentence for a criminal defendant." The ruling comes is In re: Sealed Case, No. 08-3029 (DC Cir. July 28, 2009) (available here), which starts this way:
Sentenced to eleven years in prison after pleading guilty to unlawful distribution of 2.1 grams of heroin, defendant appeals, arguing that the district court improperly sought to promote his rehabilitation through a longer term of imprisonment. Although defendant’s failure to object to the district court’s reasoning at sentencing limits us to plain error review, we agree that 18 U.S.C. § 3582(a) expressly prohibits sentencing courts from treating rehabilitation as a reason for imposing a longer term of imprisonment. In light of this clear statutory provision, and because this case also meets the remaining elements of the stringent plain error test, we vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing. Also, in accordance with our general practice and the government’s concession, we remand defendant’s additional claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.
As The BLT post notes, the "8th and 9th circuits have both determined that district judges can sentence a defendant to a longer prison sentence to promote rehabilitation. The 2nd and 3rd circuits say judges cannot increase a prison sentence for rehabilitative reasons."
July 29, 2009 at 05:56 PM | Permalink
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