WASHINGTON (CN) – A man who pleaded guilty to threatening his ex-wife over the telephone was not entitled to notice that he would receive a sentence longer than federal guidelines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.
The guidelines called for 41 to 51 months in prison, but the trial court imposed the maximum sentence of 60 months, plus 3 years of supervised release. The 11th Circuit affirmed the sentence, and Justice Stevens agreed, writing in a 5-4 decision.
Rule 32(h) of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines requires that the defendant receive notice that the court is considering a higher sentence. The issue was whether the judge’s decision was a variance from the guidelines or a departure within the guidelines.
“Neither the government nor the defendant may place the same reliance on ‘expectancy’ that gives rise to a special need for notice,” Stevens wrote. “Indeed, a sentence outside the guidelines carries no presumption of unreasonableness.”
In his dissent, Justice Breyer says that depriving a defendant of notice goes against his right to due process, since his attorney is not able to comment on the appropriateness of the sentence.