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Media Alerts - United States v. Flores-Alvarado -- Fourth Circuit
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April 9, 2015
  United States v. Flores-Alvarado -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: Sentencing Based on Drug Quantity Requires Particularized Fact-Finding

Area of Law: Sentencing

Issue Presented: Whether the district court made sufficient factual findings on the drug quantity attributed to the defendant in calculating his sentence.

Brief Summary: Marco Antonio Flores-Alvarado and co-defendant Enrique Mendoza-Figueroa ran two related drug-trafficking organizations in North Carolina that bought and sold large amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Law enforcement officers investigating Flores-Alvarado conducted two raids at homes in North Carolina and Kentucky, neither of which was owned or controlled by Flores-Alvarado. Nearly 5,000 pounds of marijuana and over $1.8 million in drug proceeds were seized. Flores-Alvarado pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

Flores-Alvarado was held responsible for 3886.3 kilograms of marijuana and 136.125 kilograms of cocaine, which was converted to a grand total marijuana equivalent of 31,111.16 kilograms. These totals included the entire amount of drugs seized in the two house raids. The district court sentenced Flores-Alvarado to life imprisonment and a concurrent term of 480 months. He appealed, claiming the district court improperly considered the full amount of drugs seized in the raids when deciding his sentence.

Under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, the drug quantity attributed to a defendant is calculated by determining the quantities associated with the specific offense along with any relevant conduct, including criminal activity jointly undertaken by the defendant. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that in order to attribute to a defendant the acts of others in jointly-undertaken criminal activity, the acts must have been within the scope of the defendant's agreement and reasonably foreseeable to the defendant. A sentencing court must make particularized factual findings with respect to both.

In this case, the Fourth Circuit held that while the district court made particularized findings about foreseeability, it failed to make particularized findings about the scope of the criminal activity Flores-Alvarado agreed to jointly undertake. Therefore, the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded for re-sentencing.

To read the full opinion, please click">here.[/L]

Panel: Chief Judge Traxler, Judges Wynn and Harris

Argument Date: 12/11/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 03/03/2015 (Amended 03/11/2015)

Docket Number: Case No. 13-4464

Decided: Reversed and remanded for re-sentencing by published opinion.

Case Alert Author: Douglas Sampson, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Wayne Buchanan Eads, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant. Yvonne Victoria Watford-McKinney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Thomas G. Walker, United States Attorney, Jennifer P. May-Parker, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Chief Judge Traxler

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 04/09/2015 11:59 AM     4th Circuit  

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