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March 25, 2013

Eleventh Circuit discusses key factor in application of federal safety valve

While on the road, I missed an intriguing lengthy Eleventh Circuit panel decision in US v. Carillo-Ayala, No. 11-14473 (11th Cir. Mar. 22, 2013) (available here), concerning the application of the safety-valve provision of federal law allowing sentencing below an otherwise applicable mandatory minimum.  Here is how the opinion gets started:

This case presents an issue of first impression in this Court concerning the “safety valve,” but one the trial judge noted is an all too frequent conundrum for a sentencing judge. When a defendant stands convicted of a drug offense carrying mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment and supervised release, the sentencing judge may impose a sentence below the other wise mandatory minimum terms if the defendant meets five criteria. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f); U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2.  Only one of the five criteria is relevant here.  It requires the defendant to show that he “did not . . . possess a firearm . . . in connection with the offense.” 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)(2); U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2(a)(2).

Defendant Arturo Carillo-Ayala admits he was a drug dealer and admits he sold firearms, but his ostensible business plan was “Guns and Drugs Sold Separately.”  The question before us is whether a drug-dealer who also sells firearms to a drug customer possesses those firearms “in connection with” the charged drug offense.  The answer is “not necessarily.”

March 25, 2013 at 10:26 PM | Permalink


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At least this panel went on to answer the question (and correctly I believe) rather than send it back to the district judge for re-sentencing with the same outcome being the likely result.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 26, 2013 12:41:05 AM

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