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Media Alerts - United States of America v. John Francis Ley - Third Circuit
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November 27, 2017
  United States of America v. John Francis Ley - Third Circuit
Headline: The Issuance of a Summons Is Not Considered a Formal Arrest when Considering the Criminal History of the Sentencing Guidelines

Area of Law: Sentencing Guidelines - Criminal History

Issue Presented: Does a traffic stop with a subsequent issuance of a summons count as an intervening arrest within the context of the criminal history Guidelines?

Brief Summary: John Ley pleaded guilty in the Western District of Pennsylvania to one count of a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. 18 U.S.C. ยง 922(g)(1). The U.S. Probation Office ("Probation") prepared a presentence investigation report ("Report") that would include any prior criminal history before the current charge. The Sentencing Guidelines provide a range of time appropriate for sentencing depending on multiple factors including criminal history. The Guidelines determine that the higher a category a person falls into the more time must be considered.

Ley objected to the Report's treatment of his criminal history as involving two arrests, which put him in a higher category than he should have been. The District Court overruled Ley's objection, and two days later Probation filed a supplemental addendum before the final sentencing. Probation stood by its analysis, and the District Court therefore sentenced Ley in the higher sentencing category.

Extended Summary: John Ley pleaded guilty for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Probation provided the District Court with a Report that included two prior arrests. Sentencing is based on a variety of factors that add up to determine the category of sentencing. The criminal history Guidelines provide that unless there is an intervening arrest prior sentences are counted as a single sentence if they were imposed on the same day. Ley committed two drug paraphernalia offenses, one on September 28, 2015 and the other the following day. He received a summons for both and pleaded guilty and was sentenced for both on the same day in May 2016.

Ley objected to the report's characterization of the September 2015 offenses. Ley argued they should be considered one single event because there was no intervening arrest and both were sentenced on the same day. He further asserted that due to this treatment of his criminal history his sentencing was put in a higher category subjecting him to stronger sentencing in the current case before the District Court. The District Court overruled Ley's objection, and two days later Probation filed a supplemental addendum and stood by its position in the Report. The District Court therefore sentenced Ley in the higher category.

The Third Circuit analyzed the issue of whether the term "arrest" included a traffic stop that resulted in summons to appear. First, the Circuit Court rejected the Government's argument that Ley failed to specifically object to the supplemental addendum that created a new factual matter for argument. The Circuit Court explained that Ley objected to the broader issue of how the District Court treated his criminal history in consideration of the Sentencing Guidelines. It discussed how issues are distinguished from arguments because issues are broader and can contain multiple legal arguments. Therefore, the contents of the supplemental addendum are a part of the overall legal issue and not a specific argument that Ley needed to preserve for appeal. Additionally, the Government asserted that the Magisterial District Court Docket Sheet listed September 28, 2015 as the "arrest date." The Circuit Court disagreed that the listed date concluded that Ley was actually arrested. It explained that the state could label an "arrest" and "summons" under the same label for logistical purposes and did not shed light on whether there was an actual arrest.

Second, the Circuit Court analyzed the single sentence rule. The single sentence rule states that prior sentences will always be counted separately if the sentences were separated by an intervening arrest. Further, if there are no intervening arrest prior sentences are still counted separately unless the sentences were imposed on the same day. The Circuit Court began its explanation by defining "arrest" and "summons" in plain terms. An "arrest" is commonly understood as "the taking or detainment (of a person) in custody, imprisonment;" this is distinct from a "summons," which is "a warning or citation to appear in court." The Court, thus, rejected the Government's argument that these are commonly considered to be equal. The Circuit Court believed it would be too far-reaching if every summons was considered an arrest. It further analyzed the term "arrest" in the context of federal criminal procedure. The Supreme Court held in Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113, 117 (1998) that the issuance of a citation for a traffic stop is not equal to a custodial arrest. Furthermore, in the context of Miranda warnings a person is "in custody" when there is a restraint on freedom or movement to the same degree as a formal arrest.

Finally, it found that other sister Circuit Courts, except the Seventh Circuit, have held that the Guidelines consider an intervening arrest to be a formal arrest similar to the definition considered in criminal procedure jurisprudence. The Court examined the Seventh Circuit's reasoning for a different conclusion and found it to be unpersuasive. The Circuit Court, therefore, concluded that a traffic stop resulting in a summons is not an arrest. It held that for the purpose of criminal history in the Sentencing Guidelines an arrest must be a formal and custodial arrest. Further, the Circuit Court found that its holding was in accordance with Sentencing Guideline policies that courts should not overstate criminal history.

Ley brought two other issues for the Third Circuit Court to consider, but since the sentence was already vacated and remanded these issues were not addressed. The full opinion can be found at

Panel: Hardiman, Roth, and Fisher, Circuit Judges.

Argument Date: May 23, 2017

Date of Issued Opinion: November 22, 2017

Docket Number: No. 16-3793

Decided: Vacated and Remanded.

Case Alert Author: Nina F. del Valle

Counsel: Lisa B. Freeland, Esq., W. Penn Hackney, Esq., and Samantha L. Stern, Esq., Counsel for the Appellant; and Soo C. Song, Esq., Rebecca, R. Haywood, Esq., and Laura S. Irwin, Esq., Counsel for the Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Circuit Judge Fisher

Circuit: Third Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Mark Rahdert

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 11/27/2017 11:02 AM     3rd Circuit  

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