United States v. Christopher Henry (11th Cir. August 2020)

The Federal Docket

September 17, 2020

Sentencing Guidelines – The Sentencing Guidelines are binding if they do not enhance a defendant’s sentence nor mandate the imposition of a sentence within the guideline range.

Christopher Henry was convicted of burglary for stealing firearms and sentenced to prison by a state court. Because of his theft of the firearms, he was later charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in federal court. Based on the statutory maximum, his guideline sentence was 120 months’ imprisonment. At his sentencing hearing, he argued that his sentence should be decreased by twenty-four months due to his time already served for the burglary charge. Henry was ultimately sentenced to 108 months’ imprisonment to run concurrently with his state sentence.

Henry appealed, arguing that the district court was required to adjust his sentence for time served in the state case.

The Eleventh Circuit agreed, holding that Henry was entitled to a mandatory downward adjustment by the district court during sentencing. The Court first noted that neither party disputed that Henry satisfied the requirements for a mandatory adjustment under U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3(b)(1), which requires that a court reduce a defendant’s sentence by the amount of time served in a separate, but related case. The Court held that this Guidelines provision was binding and not merely advisory since it neither enhanced a defendant’s sentence nor mandated the imposition of a sentence within the guideline range. As such, the binding provision did not offend the Sixth Amendment.

Appeal from the Middle District of Alabama

Opinion by Pryor, joined by Grant and Antoon (by designation from M.D. Fla.)

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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