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Gall v. United States

Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38 (2007)

Brian Gall’s first mistake was to get involved in a conspiracy to sell ecstasy in college. Chalk it up to youth. Chalk it up to poor judgment. At any rate, a criminal defense lawyer might say of his or her client: “You’re better than the worst thing you’ve done.” Gall seemed to have understood this intuitively, as he backed out of the conspiracy seven months in, and went on to graduate from college and become a master carpenter.

Gall’s second mistake was in allowing himself to trust the federal agents who came knocking on his door years later. Gall readily admitted to having been involved in the conspiracy, but told investigators that he was no longer part of it, and likely hoped it was the end of the story.

It wasn’t.

Later Gall discovered there was a federal warrant out for his arrest. Facing federal charges, he turned himself in, and admitted his guilt. The recommended sentence was 30 to 37 months in prison.

But the federal judge disagreed with the recommended sentence.

Rather than send Gall to prison, the judge gave him probation. The government appealed and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, claiming that Gall’s sentence of probation was not supported by extraordinary circumstances. In effect, the Eight Circuit wanted prison time (based on its interpretation of how the Guidelines should be imposed) for a man who did not deserve it.

In the time since selling ecstasy in college, Gall had apparently become a master carpenter. He ran his own construction business. He was no longer involved in either using or selling illegal drugs. He had turned himself in to authorities and admitted having once been a participant, but had voluntary withdrawn years ago. In other words, the Guidelines (in the Eighth Circuit’s view) apparently required that Gall be sentenced to roughly three years behind bars, with no deference given the judge who renders a sentence that falls outside that range.

The U.S. Supreme Court took issue with the Eighth Circuit’s reasoning.

Perhaps the language of its holding says it best:

“While the extent of the difference between a particular sentence and the recommended Guidelines range is relevant, courts of appeals must review all sentences-whether inside, just outside, or significantly outside the Guidelines range-under a deferential abuse-of-discretion standard.”

In other words, federal judges should be given discretion to sentence defendants as they see fit – not as the Guidelines see fit. The Gall decision allows for real justice, not mandatory punishment imposed blindly to further the “war on drugs.”

It’s important to have an experienced federal defense lawyer involved at sentencing. At Roberts Law Group, PLLC, founding attorney Patrick Roberts has represented many defendants at sentencing hearings in federal court. Although each case is different, and results can never be guaranteed when it comes to federal criminal law, Patrick Roberts has experience persuading federal judges to sentence his clients below the Guidelines range. Consult with federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts at 877-880-5753 or send an email to get started. Roberts Law Group, PLLC is based in North Carolina and serves clients nationwide.

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State v. J.G.:

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