Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sentenced Imposed Without Guideline Affirmed as Not "Plainly Unreasonable"

US v. Finley: Finley was convicted under the Assimilative Crimes Act of 3rd offense DUI and driving on a revoked license on a military base. At sentencing, Finley argued that the district court should consider what the state (Virginia) sentencing guidelines for the offenses would be - 90 days to six months in jail (or 7-10 months, as conceded on appeal). The district court "could care less what the guidelines [were] in the state system" and imposed a sentence of 27 months in prison.

Affirming, the Fourth Circuit first addressed the proper standard of review in a case like this one where there is no applicable Guideline. Applying the holding in US v. Crudup, the court concluded that such sentences are reviewed to determine if they are "plainly unreasonable." In such cases, step one is regular Booker/Gall reasonableness review, followed by a second step of determining whether any unreasonableness is "plain."

Utilizing that standard, the court concluded that Finley's sentence was not unreasonable, much less plainly so. First, the court concluded that the district court did, in fact, consider the Virginia sentencing guidelines, but rejected them as not providing adequate deterrence to Finley. Second, the court concluded that Finley's sentence was substantively reasonable and supported by the district court's findings below.

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