Monday, October 21, 2013

Error to Increase Sentence Based on Defendant’s Status as a Police Officer (Impermissible Socioeconomic Factor)

Chandler pleaded guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and was sentenced to 547 months of imprisonment after the district court varied upward from the recommended Guidelines range by 127 months.  While he was a police officer, Chandler joined an online bulletin board and posted child pornography.  The panel found that the “district court relied extensively on the fact that Chandler was a police officer at the time of the offense,” even though there was “no evidence in the record that he used or exploited his position as a police officer, or used any knowledge or skills he gained from that position, to commit the offense or attempt to hide it.”  Consequently, the court’s comments “could be interpreted to cross the line into impermissible reliance on Chandler’s socioeconomic status as a police officer,” which, “standing alone, is not a justifiable reason to increase a sentence.”  Even on plain error review, the panel vacated Chandler’s sentence and remanded for re-sentencing.  A reminder that the “should have known better” or the “trusted community figure” factor does not warrant a higher sentence on its own.



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