United States v. Espinoza-Roque (1st Cir. February 2022)

The Federal Docket

March 16, 2022

The First Circuit vacated a defendant’s 46-month sentence for various firearm offenses, holding that the district court erred in finding that the defendant was an “unlawful drug user” at the time of his offense. The enhancement was based on the defendant’s statement to probation, during the drafting of his PSR, that he smoked marijuana daily in the years leading up to his arrest.

The First Circuit declined to hold that the district court’s error in relying on the defendant’s uncorroborated statements to the probation officer was “plain error,” but nonetheless vacated the sentence based on finding that the statement failed to establish the temporal nexus for the defendant’s drug use and his possession of a firearm, especially since the defendant had also told probation that he sometimes went “weeks” without smoking marijuana. The Court held that relying on this statement was thus clear error.

Opinion from the District of Puerto Rico
Opinion by Kayatta, joined by Howard and Casper

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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