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Tapia v. United States

United States Supreme Court
564 U.S. 319 (2011)


The federal government (plaintiff) obtained Alejandra Tapia's (defendant's) conviction for smuggling unauthorized aliens into the United States. Prior to sentencing, the federal district court judge determined that Tapia needed treatment for drug abuse. One of the judge's reasons for sentencing Tapia to 51 months' imprisonment, the maximum penalty recommended by federal sentencing guidelines, was so Tapia could qualify for and complete the federal prison system's 500-hour Residential Drug Abuse Program. Although 18 U.S.C. § 3553 lists a convicted defendant's rehabilitation as one goal of punishment, the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3582(a), instructs sentencing judges to "recogniz[e] that imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation." Tapia appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, contending that the judge's sentencing rationale violated § 3582(a). The Ninth Circuit upheld Tapia's sentence and the Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kagan, J.)

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