Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Plain Error in Application of Sentence Requested by Defendant

US v. Hernandez: Hernandez pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy and was sentenced to a term of 262 months, at the bottom of the advisory Guidelines. That was the sentence Hernandez argued should be imposed. Nonetheless, he appealed to the Fourth Circuit, arguing that the sentence was procedurally unreasonable because the district court failed to provide a specific rationale for the sentence.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed, applying plain error review. The court explained that when a sentence is within the advisory Guideline range, as this one was, that "the explanation need not be elaborate or lengthy." While conceding that the district court "in this case might have said more," the failure to do so - given Hernandez's lack of objection to the Guideline calculations and a request to impose a sentence at the bottom of the Guideline range - was not error. Furthermore, even if some error was committed (and it was plain), Hernandez could not show prejudice since he received the sentence he requested.

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