7th Circuit sets standards for fast-track adjustments.

AuthorZiemer, David

Byline: David Ziemer

The 7th Circuit has issued standards that a defendant charged with illegal reentry must meet to be considered for a lower sentence based on the lack of a fast-track program.

The court held on July 20, a district court need not address a fast-track argument unless the defendant has shown that he is similarly situated to persons who actually would receive a benefit in a fast-track district.

To do that, the defendant must do the following: promptly plead guilty; agree to the factual basis proffered by the government; and execute an enforceable waiver of specific rights before or during the plea colloquy.

The court added, It also means that the defendant must establish that he would receive a fast-track sentence in at least one district offering the program and submit a thorough account of the likely imprisonment range in the districts where he is eligible, as well a candid assessment of the number of programs for which he would not qualify.

If the defendant fails to meet these conditions, the court said, that the request is illusory, and the sentencing court need not address it.

The court consolidated three appeals, all from defendants charged with entering the United States illegally after being deported: Sergio Sandoval Ramirez, Francisco Ocampo-Pineda and Luis Mandujano-Gonzalez.

Each argued that the absence of a fast-track program in their district created an unwarranted disparity between his sentence and the sentences of defendants in districts with such programs.

However, Mandujano's sentencing memorandum devoted only one paragraph to the contention, and Ramirez failed to assert that he would qualify for a reduction in any fast-track district.

Ocampo, in contrast, did claim he would be eligible in a fast-track district, because he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, did not file any pretrial motions and he attached a waiver of appeal to his sentencing memorandum. The district court did not address his request, however.

Each appealed his sentence, and after consolidating the cases, the 7th Circuit affirmed the denial of each defendant's request for a lower sentence.

The court noted that every district with a fast-track program requires that the defendant promptly plead guilty, admit the facts and waive his appellate rights.

Beyond that, however, each district has its own criteria, which can be found in U.S. v. Medran-Duran, 386 F.Supp.2d 943 (N.D.Ill.2005).

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