Monday, June 25, 2018

Rare harmless error on Guidelines miscalculation

Recent Supreme Court precedents have suggested that an error in calculating the advisory Guidelines range will rarely be harmless error, even under a plain error standard of review. See MolinaMartinez
v. United States, --- U.S. ---, 136 S. Ct. 1338, 1346 (2016).  The Sixth Circuit found such a rare occasion in United States v. Susany, found here.

In Susany, the district court committed error by not reducing by three levels the base offense level under U.S.S.G. § 2X1.1.  The Court found that the district court should have given the reduction, as although the defendant was involved in a conspiracy to break into jewelry stores, the defendant and his co-conspirators had not yet taken many of the steps necessary in order to actually commit the offense.  "A reduction pursuant to § 2X1.1 may be denied only if all crucial steps for committing the  substantive offense either have already been completed or the co-conspirators would have been capable of the commission of the substantive offense within a negligible intervening time."

But the Court found such error to be harmless - the Court noted "Susany’s case thus falls within a very unusual circumstance—the district court’s error resulted in a lower advisory sentencing range than would have resulted under the correct Guidelines calculation. We are also persuaded that the district court indicated that it provided Susany a downward variance based on the nature and circumstances of the offense, giving him “what [he] asked for; in a different way.” In this rare situation, the error did not cause Susany to receive a more severe sentence than he would have received without the error."

No comments: