Monday, December 23, 2013

Irizarry v. United States case brief

Irizarry v. United States case brief summary
128 S.Ct. 2198 (2008)

Petitioner inmate pled guilty to making a threatening interstate communication under 18 U.S.C.S. § 875(c). The trial court imposed the statutory maximum sentence, which was higher than the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual range. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the sentence. Certiorari was granted to resolve a split among the circuits as to the applicability ofFed. R. Crim. P. 32(h) to guideline variances.

The issue was whether Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(h) applied to every sentence that was a variance from the recommended U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual range even though not considered a departure as that term was used when the Rule was promulgated.


  • The Booker rule, which rendered the guidelines advisory, eliminated the concern that due process mandated notice of a contemplated non-guidelines sentence if the court were to read the rule to dispense with that notice. 
  • The notice requirement set out in case law only applied to departures that were authorized by18 U.S.C.S. § 3553(b) and were based on a ground not identified in either the presentence report or in a prehearing submission. 
  • In other words, there was no longer a limit comparable to the one at issue in case law on the variances from the guidelines range that a district court may have found justified under the 18 U.S.C.S. § 3553(a) sentencing factors. 
  • The fact that Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(h) remained in effect did not justify extending its protections to variances. 
  • District judges and counsel were able to ensure that all relevant matters related to a sentencing decision were considered before a final sentencing determination.

The lower court's judgment was affirmed. 5-4 decision; 2 opinions, 1 concurrence; 1 dissent.

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