7th Circuit wants rationale for sentence

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A defendant was unable to get his revocation of probation overturned, but he is heading back to court for another sentencing after the District judge failed to give reasons for imposing a two-year jail term.

Christopher Boultinghouse was placed on supervised release after he finished serving 77 months for unlawfully possessing a firearm in interstate commerce following conviction of a felony offense. While on probation, he tested positive for drugs multiple times and failed to inform his probation officer within 72 hours that he had been arrested in a neighboring county.

Boultinghouse represented himself at the revocation hearing before Chief Judge Richard Young in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The District Court found the government did establish that Boultinghouse violated the terms of his supervised release and it revoked his probation.

Given Boultinghouse’s violations and his criminal history, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines recommended a sentence within the range of 21 months to 27 months. The range was capped at 24 months.

After the penalty phase hearing, the District Court ordered him to serve 24 months, the maximum permissible term of incarceration. However, the court did not cite the factors, which are set by statute for the judiciary to consider, for imposing that length of sentence.

Boultinghouse appealed his sentence, arguing the District Court did not articulate a rationale for the sentence.  
The unanimous panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and remanded for resentencing in United States of America v. Christopher Boultinghouse, 14-2746. The appellate court held it could not conduct a meaningful review of the sentence without knowing the reasoning of the District Court.

“The range in this case was narrow one as a result of the statutory cap,” Ilana Rovner wrote for the court. “One might be tempted to say that no explanation is needed to justify a sentence of 24 months versus 21 months. But this strikes us as a perilous path to go down. Even small differences in the sentence matter to the defendant, and we do not think that the district court’s obligation to explain its sentencing decision may be excused simply because the stakes may see less significant to us.”


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