United States v. Carlos Garcia-Perez (1st Cir. August 2021)

The Federal Docket

September 8, 2021

Sentencing – A district court varying upwards from the Guidelines must articulate adequate reasons for its upwards variance that are specific to the defendant’s conduct and not otherwise covered by the Guidelines.

Carlos Garcia Perez was arrested after police officers in Puerto Rico saw him throw onto the street a bag full of ammunition and a handgun that had been modified to fire automatically. He pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a machine gun and was sentenced to 42 months in prison, an upwards variance from the applicable Guidelines range. 

On appeal, Garcia Perez challenged his sentence as procedurally and substantively unreasonable. Among other things, he argued that his sentence was unreasonable based on the district court’s failure to adequately explain its basis for its upward variance.

The First Circuit agreed and vacated Garcia Perez’s sentence. While the district court had expressed concern with Garcia’s possession of the machine gun, the Court noted that the nature of the weapon possessed was already covered by the Guidelines, and thus could not be a basis for a variance. The district court had not explained why this specific defendant’s possession of that weapon was “entitled to extra weight.” The Court further noted that, on remand, the district court could consider other characteristics such as the amount of ammunition involved or the public environment where his offense took place.

Appeal from the District of Puerto Rico
Opinion by Barron, joined by Howard and McAuliffe

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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