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  • Molino-Martinez v. United StatesMolino-Martinez v. United States
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Molino-Martinez v. United States

United States Supreme Court
136 S.Ct. 1338 (2016)


Facts

Saul Molino-Martinez (Molino) (defendant) pleaded guilty to the federal government's (plaintiff's) charge that he reentered the United States after having been deported. To calculate the sentence recommended by the United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) for Molino's offense, the federal probation office determined Molino's USSG "offense level" and "criminal history" ratings. Based on this determination, the probation office recommended that Molino's sentence fall within the "Category VI" range, between 77 and 96 months' imprisonment. The judge imposed a 77-month sentence. After sentencing, Molino discovered that the probation office overlooked a critical USSG provision that effectively reduced his criminal history rating from Category VI to Category V. Molino's 77-month sentence was at the low end of the Category VI range, but in the middle of the 70-to-87 month range for Category V. Molino appealed his sentence to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that Molino had to satisfy the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 52(b) requirement that, when a defendant alleges a reversible error for the first time on appeal, he must prove a plain error that affected his substantial rights. The court held that Molino failed to meet the Rule 52(b) requirement, because his 77-month sentence was within the applicable ranges for both Category V and Category VI, and there was no other evidence to establish a reasonable probability that the trial judge would have sentenced Molino differently had there been no error. The court affirmed Molino's sentence. Other circuit courts would have sided with Molino, and therefore the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in order to resolve the circuit split.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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