Supreme Court rules for defendant in sentencing challenge
MarkThomas / Pixabay
Supreme Court rules for defendant in sentencing challenge

The US Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in Holguin-Hernandez v. United States that petitioner Gonzalo Holguin-Hernandez properly preserved the claim that his 12-month sentence for drug trafficking was unreasonably long.

The government asked the court to find that Holguin-Hernandez had violated the conditions of his earlier term, to revoke it, and impose an additional consecutive prison term of 12 to 18 months imprisonment. The court responded by stating that the sentence did not correspond to Congress’ intent for criminal rehabilitation and punishment in the justice system.

“Congress has instructed sentencing courts to impose sentences that are ‘sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with’ (among other things) certain basic objectives, including the need for ‘just punishment, deterrence, protection of the public, and rehabilitation.'” Following Hernandez’s initial trial for drug trafficking, the district court imposed a 12-month sentence on the defendant. Hernandez appealed, stating that the sentence was unreasonably long. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that Hernandez’s argument had failed to specifically refer to the reasonableness of the sentence. The Supreme Court reversed this judgment, stating that “a sentence of 12 months or longer would be greater than necessary to comply with the statutory purposes of punishment, under 18 U.S.C. §3553(a).”