Appealing a sentence when there is a plea agreement in place, United States v. David Williams III, No. 14-4680 (filed January 28, 2016)

This case was consolidated with Mr. William’s co-defendant, Ms. Kristin Williams, and the issue here really only pertains to her sentence.   Ms. William’s appellate counsel filed Anders briefs in their cases (which, by its nature informs the court that counsel does not believe the raised issue has merit), and questioned whether Ms. Williams’s sentence was reasonable.

The court takes this opportunity to remind the bench and bar that not all sentences are subject to appellate review.  The court of appeals may only review a defendant’s sentence if 1) it “was imposed in violation of law,” (2) it “was imposed as a result of an incorrect application of the sentencing guidelines,” (3) it “is greater than the sentence specified in the applicable guideline rant,” or (4) it “was imposed for an offense for which there is no sentencing guideline and is plainly unreasonable.”   18 U.S.C. §3742(a).  But additionally, a defendant sentenced pursuant to a plea agreement “may not file a notice of appeal . . . unless the sentence imposed is greater than the sentence set forth in the agreement.  Id. §3742(c).   The court clarifies, in this opinion, that a sentence imposed pursuant to a plea agreement may be reviewed, but only where that agreement expressly uses a Guidelines sentencing range applicable to the charged offense to establish the term of imprisonment.  So, in other words, a defendant may appeal a plea agreement if some stipulated plea sentences expressly rely on the Guidelines to calculate the agreed-upon sentence (and the application of the Guidelines was incorrect).  Since Ms. Williams’s sentence did not expressly rely on the Guidelines, the Court did not have jurisdiction to review the sentence’s reasonableness.  Short and sweet, and something that federal practitioners should keep in mind when crafting plea agreements for their clients.frog-927764_960_720