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The Second Circuit Reviews Sentences On Appeal For Reasonableness Under §3553(a): The 2014 Update Procedural And Substantive Review


3553(a) reasonable sentence federal sentence appeals lawyer

U.S. v. Park

Second Circuit Court Of Appeals

2014 WL 3289493

Decided: July 9, 2014

Sentence Reviewed For Procedural And Substantive Reasonableness Under §3553(a) 

Summary: Defendant Park pleaded guilty to an information charging him with filing a false corporate tax return. Defendant diverted his business’s cash receipts from the corporate bank account, filed false corporate tax returns that understated the business’s gross receipts, and underpaid payroll taxes that were past due. The Sentencing Guidelines calculated by the PSR suggested 15- 21 months imprisonment. At the sentencing hearing, the District Court was inclined to impose a sentence of incarceration in light of Park’s prior convictions; however, The District Court noted that the “economic problems” caused by the 2013 Government shut down would be considered in imposing a jail sentence.

The District Court sentenced Defendant to three years probation and six months home confinement. The Government filed a timely notice of appeal contending that the Court erred in considering the cost of incarceration as a relevant sentencing factor. The Second Circuit Court Of Appeals held that the District Court committed procedural error when they imposed a term of probation. The cost of incarceration is not included in the §3553(a) factors, nor is it an additional factor that the District Courts may rely on. The Second Circuit Court Of Appeals vacated the sentence imposed by the District Court and remanded the case for plenary resentencing in accordance with 18 U.S.C §3553(a).

See Also: Determining The Reasonableness Of A Sentence: Substantive And Procedural Reasonableness 

Issue: Whether the District Court erred in sentencing Defendant to a below-guidelines probationary sentence based solely on its belief that the Government could not afford the cost of incarceration; whether the cost of incarceration is a permissible factor to consider in determining whether to impose a term of imprisonment and whether a probationary sentence in this case was substantively reasonable.

Holding: The Second Circuit held that the District Court’s probationary sentence was substantively unreasonable and that it failed to conduct a meaningful review of the Defendant’s sentencing factors enumerated under 18 U.S.C.§3553(a).  The cost of incarceration is not a permissible factor to consider in determining whether to impose a term of imprisonment. A sentence is substantively unreasonable when 1) it lacks a proper basis in the record, 2) The court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake was made in accessing the evidence, or, 3) the sentence imposed was shockingly high, shockingly low, or otherwise unsupportable as a matter of law.

Facts: Defendant Young C. Park pleaded guilty to an information charging him with filing a false corporate tax return.  The Presentence Report (PSR) stated that Defendant diverted his business’s cash receipts from the corporate bank account, filed false corporate tax returns that understated the business’s gross receipts, and underpaid payroll taxes that were due and owing. The Sentencing Guidelines that were calculated by the PSR were in range of 15 to 21 months imprisonment. At the sentencing hearing, the District Court revealed that it was inclined to impose a sentence of incarceration in light of Park’s prior convictions and resulting prison sentence. The Court noted that the “economic problems” caused by the 2013 Government shut down warranted for further consideration.

The District Court sentenced Defendant to three years probation and six months home confinement. The Government filed a timely notice of appeal contending that the District Court erred in considering the cost of incarceration as a sentencing factor. The Second Circuit Court Of Appeals held that the District Court committed procedural error when they imposed a term of probation using the cost of incarceration as a sentencing factor under §3553(a). The Second Circuit Court Of Appeals vacated the sentence imposed by the District Court and remanded the case for plenary resentencing in accordance with 18 U.S.C §3553(a).

Legal Analysis: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reviews cases only for reasonableness and found that there are two types of components: procedural review and substantive review.

The procedural review focuses on whether the sentencing court followed the necessary steps in deciding upon a sentence. A District Court normally begins all sentencing proceedings by calculating the applicable Sentencing Guidelines range, and will then consider all the factors listed in 18 U.S.C §3553(a) as required by statute.

The Second Circuit held in order to determine Substantive reasonableness, an Appellate Court will set aside a District Court’s substantive determination only in exceptional cases. Whether a sentence is exceptional within the scheme of federal sentencing law ‘is no more based on an algorithm or calculus than is the decision of a District Judge to impose that particular sentence in the first place.’ The Judge must explain enough about the sentence for a reviewing court both to understand it and to assure itself that the Judge considered the principles enunciated in federal statutes and the Guidelines.

Under 18 U.S.C ^3553 (a), a District Court must consider seven sentencing factors: The First factor determines the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the Defendant; the Second factor requires a consideration of the general purposes of sentencing; the Third factor pertains to the kinds of sentences available; the Fourth factor pertains to the Sentencing Guidelines; the Fifth factor pertains to any relevant policy statement issued by the Sentencing Commission; the Sixth factor pertains to the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities; and the Seventh factor pertains to the need to provide restitution to any victim.

The Second Circuit Court Of Appeals held that the District Court committed procedural error when they imposed a term of probation using the cost of incarceration as a sentencing factor under §3553(a). Furthermore, the Court vacated the sentence imposed, and remanded the case for plenary ressentencing.


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