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The Second Circuit Rocks Out On The Fourth Circuit’s Love of The Third Level

Recently, the Fourth Circuit held that the government cannot deny someone who pleads guilty the third level for acceptance of responsibility under 3E1.1. Here’s my earlier post on the Fourth Circuit opinion (which describes the issue in much more detail).

Today, the Second Circuit joined the Fourth Circuit’s celebration of giving full sentence-reduction credit to people who plead guilty.

In United States v. Lee, the defendant, Mr. Lee entered a guilty plea and did it soon enough that they knew they wouldn’t have to prepare for trial. The government refused to move for a third level reduction in Mr. Lee’s sentencing guidelines under 3E1.1, though, because Mr. Lee had the temerity to disagree with the government about what happened in the crime.

He entered a guilty plea, but, apparently, did not fully submit to the will of the United States government, and so they had to have a sentencing hearing. The Second Circuit’s opinion is not crystal clear on the government’s reasoning, but, apparently, the government wanted Mr. Lee to spend more time in prison because either (1) he disagreed with the government, or (2) he made them do extra work.

The Second Circuit held that the government’s refusal to move for the third level was unlawful. The court said that the government cannot withhold the third level simply because they have to prepare for a sentencing hearing, relying heavily on the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Divens.

Let that 3E1.1 law keep developing in a way that gives people credit for giving away their rights in a guilty plea.

Hat tip to Professor Berman.

If you have questions about how federal criminal charges are different than state criminal charges, please visit this page on Maryland federal criminal charges or Washington DC federal criminal charges.