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December 23, 2011

Third Circuit holds that only help to prosecutors can influence sentence below mandatory minimum

The Third Circuit handed down a notable sentencing opinion today in US v. Winebarger, No. 11-1905 (3d Cir. Dec. 23, 2011) (available here). Here is how the opinion begins, and a paragraph from the body of the opinion showing why this ruling is not ground-breaking:

In this appeal, we are asked to determine what factors a district court may consider when sentencing a defendant below a statutory minimum term of imprisonment in order to take his assistance to the government into account pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e).   We hold that a district court cannot use factors unrelated to a defendant's substantial assistance to the government in order to reduce a sentence below the minimum called for under statute. We will therefore vacate the judgment of sentence and remand for resentencing....

We note that every circuit court of appeals to address the issue we face today has held that a court may not use factors unrelated to a defendant's assistance to the government in reducing the defendant's sentence below the statutory minimum....   Today, we join our sister circuit courts of appeals in so holding.

December 23, 2011 at 05:40 PM | Permalink

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