2001 Federal Sentencing Guideline Manual
§6A1.3. Resolution of Disputed Factors (Policy Statement)
(a)When any factor important to the sentencing determination is reasonably in dispute, the parties shall be given an adequate opportunity to present information to the court regarding that factor. In resolving any dispute concerning a factor important to the sentencing determination, the court may consider relevant information without regard to its admissibility under the rules of evidence applicable at trial, provided that the information has sufficient indicia of reliability to support its probable accuracy.
(b)The court shall resolve disputed sentencing factors at a sentencing hearing in accordance with Rule 32(c)(1), Fed. R. Crim. P.
In pre-guidelines practice, factors relevant to sentencing were often determined in an informal fashion. The informality was to some extent explained by the fact that particular offense and offender characteristics rarely had a highly specific or required sentencing consequence. This situation no longer exists under sentencing guidelines. The courts resolution of disputed sentencing factors usually has a measurable effect on the applicable punishment. More formality is therefore unavoidable if the sentencing process is to be accurate and fair.
Although lengthy sentencing hearings seldom should be necessary, disputes about sentencing factors must be resolved with care. When a dispute exists about any factor important to the sentencing determination, the court must ensure that the parties have an adequate opportunity to present relevant information. Written statements of counsel or affidavits of witnesses may be adequate under many circumstances. See, e.g, United States v. Ibanez, 924 F.2d 427 (2d Cir. 1991). An evidentiary hearing may sometimes be the only reliable way to resolve disputed issues. See, e.g, United States v. Jimenez Martinez, 83 F.3d 488, 494-95 (1st Cir. 1996) (finding error in district courts denial of defendants motion for evidentiary hearing given questionable reliability of affidavit on which the district court relied at sentencing); United States v. Roberts, 14 F.3d 502, 521(10th Cir. 1993) (remanding because district court did not hold evidentiary hearing to address defendants objections to drug quantity determination or make requisite findings of fact regarding drug quantity); see also, United States v. Fatico, 603 F.2d 1053, 1057 n.9 (2d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1073 (1980). The sentencing court must determine the appropriate procedure in light of the nature of the dispute, its relevance to the sentencing determination, and applicable case law.
In determining the relevant facts, sentencing judges are not restricted to information that would be admissible at trial. See 18 U.S.C. § 3661; see also United States v. Watts, 117 S. Ct. 633, 635 (1997) (holding that lower evidentiary standard at sentencing permits sentencing courts consideration of acquitted conduct); Witte v. United States, 515 U.S. 389, 399-401 (1995) (noting that sentencing courts have traditionally considered wide range of information without the procedural protections of a criminal trial, including information concerning criminal conduct that may be the subject of a subsequent prosecution); Nichols v. United States, 511 U.S. 738, 747-48 (1994) (noting that district courts have traditionally considered defendants prior criminal conduct even when the conduct did not result in a conviction). Any information may be considered, so long as it has sufficient indicia of reliability to support its probable accuracy. Watts, 117 S. Ct. at 637; Nichols, 511 U.S. at 748; United States v. Zuleta-Alvarez, 922 F.2d 33 (1st Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U.S. 927 (1991); United States v. Beaulieu, 893 F.2d 1177 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 497 U.S. 1038 (1990). Reliable hearsay evidence may be considered. United States v. Petty, 982 F.2d 1365 (9th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1040 (1994); United States v. Sciarrino, 884 F.2d 95 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 997 (1989). Out-of-court declarations by an unidentified informant may be considered where there is good cause for the non-disclosure of the informants identity and there is sufficient corroboration by other means. United States v. Rogers, 1 F.3d 341 (5th Cir. 1993); see also United States v. Young, 981 F.2d 180 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 508 U.S. 980 (1993); United States v. Fatico, 579 F.2d 707, 713 (2d Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1073 (1980). Unreliable allegations shall not be considered. United States v. Ortiz, 993 F.2d 204 (10th Cir. 1993).
The Commission believes that use of a preponderance of the evidence standard is appropriate to meet due process requirements and policy concerns in resolving disputes regarding application of the guidelines to the facts of a case.