United States v. Jerry Sanchez Carrasquillo (11th Cir. July 2021)

The Federal Docket

July 14, 2021

Jerry Sanchez appealed his sentence for cocaine offenses, arguing that 1) the district court erred in failing to elicit objections after imposing his sentence, and 2) the district court erred in denying him safety valve relief under USSG 5C1.2 after finding he was subject to the firearm enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1).

The Eleventh Circuit agreed that the district court erred under United States v. Jones, 899 F.2d 1097 (11th Cir. 1990), which requires district courts to “elicit a full articulation of the grounds upon which any objection is based.” The judge here had only asked Sanchez if there was “anything you’d like to state to the Court now that you have been sentenced.” Remand was not necessary, however, because the record on appeal was sufficient for the Court to review Sanchez’s objections to his sentence.

Turning to those objections, the Court acknowledged that there was “daylight” between the standards for applying the enhancement under 2D1.1(b)(1) for possession of a firearm and the safety valve under USSG 5C1.2, which precludes relief if a defendant possessed a firearm “in connection with the offense.” In other words, the Court conceded that Sanchez was not precluded from safety valve relief under 5C1.2 just because the district court applied the firearm enhancement under 2D1.1(b)(1).

Here, however, the district court’s findings in applying the firearm enhancement also supported denying Sanchez safety valve relief. The judge found that, based on the firearms being loaded and present in the center console of the truck containing the cocaine, the firearm was possessed to protect the cocaine, thus meeting the lower standard under 2D1.1(b)(1) (mere presence) and the higher standard under 5C1.2 (in connection with the offense).

On appeal from the Middle District of Florida
Opinion by Jordan, joined by Newsom and Tjoflat

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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