Fifth Circuit - General Application Issues

United States v. Chambliss, 948 F.3d 691 (5th Cir. 2020). Although the defendant was eligible for compassionate release under the First Step Act, the court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant’s motion for a reduced sentence. Compassionate release is discretionary, and the court sufficiently articulated its reasons for denying the motion.

United States v. Johnson, 956 F.3d 740 (5th Cir. 2020). The court committed plain error when it relied on the defendant’s prior acts of witness intimidation, which were described in probation’s sealed judicial recommendation, because the parties were not informed of those circumstances and were not given an opportunity to object before sentencing.

United States v. Diggles, 957 F.3d 551 (5th Cir. 2020) (en banc). A court is not required to “pronounce” a mandatory condition of supervised release, as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d). The court must “pronounce” all other conditions. A condition is “pronounced” when a court conducts an “oral in-court adoption of a written list of proposed conditions,” such as adopting the “special conditions” outlined in the PSR or adopting the “standard conditions” set forth in “courtwide or judge-specific standing orders.” A court must articulate reasons justifying any discretionary conditions it imposes. Plain-error review applies when a defendant fails to raise a pronouncement objection, had notice of the proposed conditions, and had an opportunity to object.

United States v. Angeles, 971 F.3d 535 (5th Cir. 2020). A court, after reviewing the objections to the PSR, may express concern that a defendant is frivolously denying relevant conduct and state that continuing to do so may result in denial of acceptance under §3E1.1(a).

United States v. Valdez, 973 F.3d 396 (5th Cir. 2020). In a case where the defendant pleaded guilty without a plea agreement, counsel’s gross undercalculation of the Guidelines range was not unreasonably deficient. Counsel informed the defendant of the correct statutory penalties and clearly indicated that his estimate was not a promise.

United States v. Taylor, 973 F.3d 414 (5th Cir. 2020). The court’s sentence was both ineffectual (the sentence was ordered to commence before sentencing) and ambiguous (the sentence did not state which of the four anticipated state sentences the federal sentence should run concurrently with). The court was ordered on remand to consider, and state on the record, whether it would have imposed the same sentence.

United States v. Leontartis, 977 F.3d 447 (5th Cir. 2020). When calculating the guidelines, the court is not bound by the jury’s finding that the defendant was accountable for 50 grams or less of methamphetamine. It is the sentencing court’s duty to apply and calculate the sentencing guidelines under the preponderance of the evidence standard.

United States v. Garcia, 983 F.3d 820 (5th Cir. 2020). The court properly pronounced the discretionary conditions of supervised release when it referred to “this judgment” (either to an order signed by the defendant setting forth those discretionary conditions or a later entered judgment containing those same conditions) at sentencing and gave the defendant an opportunity to object to those conditions.

United States v. Mims, 992 F.3d 406 (5th Cir. 2021). The court’s revocation sentence was based on a wrongly calculated guideline range of 15 to 21 months (for a Grade A violation) instead of 6 to 12 months (for a Grade B violation). However, this miscalculation did not constitute plain error.

United States v. Burney, 992 F.3d 398 (5th Cir. 2021). The court did not improperly consider the defendant’s socioeconomic status by considering the defendant’s “good childhood” and upbringing in justifying an upward variance. “[S]uch considerations are part of a defendant’s background, not his socioeconomic status.”

United States v. Reyna-Aragon, 992 F.3d 381 (5th Cir. 2021). The court committed ex post facto error by applying more onerous sentencing guidelines in effect at the time of the defendant’s sentencing. The error, however, was harmless because the court relied on additional factors.

United States v. Reyna-Aragon, 992 F.3d 381 (5th Cir. 2021). The court did not violate the defendant’s Fifth Amendment Due Process rights by adopting the presentence report’s description of his Texas arrest for sexual assault, a charge that was later “no-billed.” The PSR’s description of the event was more than a “bare arrest record.”