Thursday, March 08, 2007

18-month Probation Revocation Sentence Not Plainly Unreasonable

US v. Moulden: Moulden was on probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and repeatedly violated the terms of his probation. The violations were mostly minor - failed drug screens, failure to pay restitution, etc. - and the district court did not revoke Moulden's probation the first two times his violations were brought before the court. The court did extend his term of supervision, however, with Moulden's consent. Finally, Moulden's probation officer filed a petition seeking revocation of Moulden's probation for multiple violations relating to drug use, treatment, restitution, and maintaining contact with his probation officer. Moulden admitted the violations and the district court revoked his probation. The sentencing range suggested in the policy statements in Chapter 7 of the Guidelines was three to nine months. The district court imposed a sentence of 18 months.

On appeal, Moulden argued that his sentence was excessive. The Fourth Circuit rejected that argument and upheld the sentence. Along the way, it clarified the standard of review in probation revocation appeals. Moulden argued that the proper standard for reviewing his sentence was the post-Booker reasonableness standard. However, the Government argued, and the Fourth Circuit agreed, that the proper standard was the same one employed in supervised release cases - plainly unreasonable. With that question settled, the Fourth concluded that Moulden's sentence was not plainly unreasonable given his history of probation violations and the district court's prior leniency in dealing with them.

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