In a recent case coming out of a southeastern federal court, the defendant’s appeal of his 100-month prison sentence was denied. According to the defendant, the lower court had imposed a sentence that was too harsh, and it was only fair for the higher court to reevaluate the sentence to more accurately reflect the crime that the defendant committed. Ultimately, the court disagreed, and the defendant’s original sentence was affirmed.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, in 2016, the defendant in this case somehow acquired counterfeit twenty-dollar bills. He used these bills to purchase a weapon – specifically, a Ruger 9mm pistol along with ammunition. He was later indicted on two counts: (1) possession of a firearm and ammunition and (2) passing counterfeit money. Of note, the defendant in this case had been convicted of felonies in the past, meaning he could potentially face harsher consequences for the 2016 crime given his criminal history.
The court sentenced the defendant to 100 months in prison and three years of supervised release. On appeal, the defendant argued that his sentence was too harsh and that the criterion that the probation officer used to sentence him was the incorrect standard for the officer to be using. In the sentencing hearing, the probation officer advised the court that it should increase the defendant’s sentence because of a law stating that if a defendant “used or possessed any firearm or ammunition in connection with another felony offense,” that defendant’s prison time should be longer than it would be otherwise.
According to the defendant, he had not used any firearm “in connection” with another felony offense. The two crimes, the purchase of the firearm and the passing of counterfeit money, were separate crimes. There was no connection between the two offenses, thus the guideline advising the court to enhance the defendant’s prison sentence was unreasonably referenced by the probation officer.
The court explained in its opinion that for the two crimes to be in connection with each other, the only requirement was for the firearm to be present at the time of the defendant’s second offense. Thus, because the firearm was present with the defendant as he committed the second crime, the defendant did, in fact, use the firearm in connection with the felony offense. It was also true, said the court, that the lower court stated during the hearing that it would have reached the same conclusion regardless of whether or not the two crimes were in connection with each other.
Given these facts, the higher court denied the defendant’s appeal and kept his original sentence in place.
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