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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 111492
Experience:  Attorney with over 20 years law enforcement, prosecution, civil rights and defense experience
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I am a young lawyer having trouble finding information I need

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I am a young lawyer having trouble finding information I need for a case. I am looking for a federal criminal appeals case law regarding two issues:

1) What is the standard for reviewing the application of the federal sentencing guidelines when a judge applies them?

2) What does "bottom" mean when a judge has been told that the agreement between attorneys is that the defendant receive the "bottom" of the guidelines - the exact bottom or just the bottom half?

We had a plea agreement calling for a sentence at the bottom end of the guide lines. The judge said he would accept that plea agreement then sentenced my client to a sentence 4 months up from the bottom. Both the prosecutor and I felt like the bottom end is the bottom end. The judge said the bottom end just mean anywhere between the bottom end and midway.

An approved answer will give caselaw, preferably from the 11th Circuit, Middle District, please, of Alabama.
1) The standard of review is set forth in Rita v. United States,XXXXX 2456, 168 L.Ed.2d 203, 551 U. S. 338 (2007). There the court stated a sentence imposed within a properly calculated Guidelines range is presumptively reasonable. The "reasonableness" review merely asks whether the trial court abused its discretion, the presumption applies only on appellate review. See: United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). “A district court abuses its discretion when it (1) fails to afford consideration to relevant factors that were due significant weight, (2) gives significant weight to an improper or irrelevant factor, or (3) commits a clear error of judgment in considering the proper factors.” United States v. Campa, 459 F.3d 1121, 1174 (11th Cir.2006) (en banc). As for the third way that discretion can be abused, a district court commits a clear error of judgment when it considers the proper factors but balances them unreasonably. See Ameritas Variable Life Ins. Co. v. Roach, 411 F.3d 1328, 1330 (11th Cir.2005) (“[A]n abuse of discretion can occur ... when all proper factors, and no improper ones, are considered, but the court, in weighing those factors, commits a clear error of judgment.” (emphasis added) (quotation marks omitted)). The principle that discretion can be abused by unreasonably balancing proper factors is solidly established in Supreme Court precedent and our circuit law. See, e.g., Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 257, 102 S.Ct. 252, 266, 70 L.Ed.2d 419 (1981) (“The forum non conveniens determination is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. It may be reversed only when there has been a clear abuse of discretion; where the court has considered all relevant public and private interest factors, and where its balancing of these factors is reasonable, its decision deserves substantial deference.” (emphasis added)); Ford v. Brown, 319 F.3d 1302, 1308 (11th Cir.2003) (“We conclude that the district court overlooked some highly relevant factors, and that it ultimately struck a balance that was an abuse of discretion.”).

2) The 11th Cir. takes these cases where the government makes recommendations at the bottom range to mean that anything within that "range" would be a reasonable sentence, even though it is not the absolute minimum in the bottom range. See: United States v. Howard, No. 07-15199 (11th Cir. 11/5/2008) (11th Cir., 2008)



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