August 30, 2014

Tenth Circuit: No Procedural Error for District Court to Sentence Defendant Based on Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Wiseman on Tuesday, April 21, 2014.

Defendant Tina Patricia Wiseman pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone as part of a plea deal where she received two sentence reductions. The guideline range for her sentence was 57-71 months, but she received a sentence of 48 months. Wiseman filed a motion for a downward variance based on the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors. Wiseman did not contest the guideline range set forth in the PSR, but she argued for a sentence of probation with the opportunity to participate in a rehabilitative drug program. Wiseman urged the court to consider the sentencing disparity between her guideline range and similarly situated state court defendants, arguing repeatedly that the comparison was appropriate because cases like hers are typically prosecuted in state court. The central argument of Wiseman’s appeal was that the district court committed procedural error because it failed to consider § 3553(a)(6) when it stated it did not have authority to consider state-federal disparities. However, the district court analyzed § 3553(a)(6) and determined that a prison sentence was necessary because § 3553(a)(6) applies only when addressing sentencing disparities among and between federal defendants sentenced under the federal sentencing guideline regime.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the sentence of the district court.

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