United States v. Sincleair (5th Cir. October 2021)

The Federal Docket

December 13, 2021

Phillip Sincleair pled guilty without a plea agreement to one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with the  intent to distribute it under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). Over Sincleair’s objection, the district court applied a two-level firearm possession enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1) because a firearm was present at the locations where the drug transactions occurred. Sincleair appealed.

The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded for resentencing. The record is insufficient to support the firearm enhancement because the PSR did not include sufficient facts to establish a temporal and spatial relationship between Sincleair, the gun, and the drug trafficking activity. Sincleair was not shown to have any connection to or knowledge of the gun, and the district court failed to make a record of what its rationale may have been supporting the enhancement.

Appeal from the Northern District of Texas/
Opinion by Davis, joined by Haynes and Oldham

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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