Monday, August 19, 2013

Court Not Required to Apply Section 3553(a) Factors when Modifying Sentence Pursuant to Rule 35(b) Motion

United States v. Lightfoot, No. 11-11232 (July 29, 2013) (DeMoss, Owen, Haynes)

Lightfoot appealed the district court’s judgment that reduced his original sentence from 310 months to 286 months pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b) after he provided substantial assistance to the Government. He argued that the court mistakenly believed that it did not have the authority to consider the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) sentencing factors when modifying his sentence, or alternatively that the court believed it could consider those factors and erred by not doing so.

First, the panel determined that it has jurisdiction to determine whether the sentence was imposed in violation of law. The panel then analyzed 18 U.S.C. §§ 3553 and 3582 to determine whether the district court was required to consider the § 3553(a) factors in ruling on a Rule 35(b) request to reduce the sentence. The panel concluded that a court may consider § 3553(a) factors in ruling on a Rule 35(b) motion, but it does not have to.

Section "3553(a) factors must be applied when imposing a sentence but when modifying a sentence that has already been imposed, their application is only required in statutorily enumerated circumstances." Subsection (c) of 3582 specifies when § 3553(a) factors must be considered in modifying a sentence but does not mention those factors for modification under Rule 35. Consequently, application of § 3553(a) factors when modifying a sentence pursuant to Rule 35(b) motion is permitted but not required.



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