American Bar Association
Media Alerts
Media Alerts - United States v. Pineda - Fourth Circuit
Decrease font size
Increase font size
January 14, 2015
  United States v. Pineda - Fourth Circuit
Headline: Probation Officer's Report on Hearsay Statement Justifies Sentence Enhancements for Drug and Gun Transactions

Area of Law: Criminal Law, Sentencing

Issues Presented: Whether the district court erred when it: 1) applied a four-level sentencing enhancement based on the defendant's trafficking of arms during a transaction he was not convicted for at trial; and 2) applied a two-level sentencing enhancement for committing an offense involving 3 or 4 more firearms. Whether the evidence was sufficient to support Pineda's conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance a drug trafficking crime.

Brief Summary: A Confidential Informant ("CI") purchased a stolen assault rifle, a handgun, and cocaine in two separate transactions with Jose Pineda. Pineda was subsequently convicted on two separate counts of cocaine distribution and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug distribution. At sentencing, the district court applied sentence enhancements based upon information contained in a probation officer's pre-sentence report. The report focused on a hearsay statement from a witness involved in the first gun sale. This witness alleged that a prior drug and gun transaction occurred between the CI and Pineda. Pineda appealed the judgment on the basis of double counting during sentencing; alleging that because he only sold one firearm at a time, it did not amount to firearms trafficking.
Specifically, Pineda challenged: 1) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of the first transaction; 2) the district court's application of sentence enhancements based upon hearsay evidence; 3) the enhancement of his sentence for committing an offense involving three or more firearms; and 4) the enhancement of his sentence for firearms trafficking.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling. The court concluded that any reasonable trier of fact could determine there was sufficient evidence for a conviction and that the district court could consider the witness' hearsay statement as relevant information, so long as it was reliable. The court further concluded that the prior firearm transaction was sufficiently relevant for sentence enhancement purposes because it was conduct similar to the other transactions. Furthermore, because the enhancements punished different types of conduct, they did not amount to double-counting. The court finally determined that Pineda's multiple transactions each involving a single firearm were sufficient.

To read the full opinion, please click here.

Panel: Judges Niemeyer, Wynn, and Floyd

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/29/2014

Docket Number: No. 13-4555

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Katherine C. Parris, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Terry F. Rose, Smithfield, North Carolina, for Appellant. Phillip Anthony Rubin, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Thomas G. Walker, United States Attorney, Jennifer P. May-Parker, Yvonne V. Watford-McKinney, Assistant United States Attorneys, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Niemeyer

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 01/14/2015 10:55 AM     4th Circuit  

FuseTalk Enterprise Edition - © 1999-2018 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Discussion Board Usage Agreement

Back to Top