Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Puentes-Hurtado: Claims reviewable on appeal despite appeal waiver
In U.S. v. Puentes-Hurtado, No. 13-12770 (July 22, 2015), the Court held that an appeal waiver in a plea agreement did not bar a subsequent appeal on a claim that the plea was involuntary because counsel rendered ineffective assistance, because the government breached the plea agreement, nor on a claim that there was an insufficient factual basis to support the plea – such a claim goes to whether the guilty plea is enforceable. The Court declined to reach the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, finding the record insufficiently developed, and noting that the defendant could file a motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Reviewing the issue for “plain error,” the Court found that even if the defendant only admitted to physically transporting the drug proceeds, this sufficed to support his guilty plea for a narcotics distribution conspiracy. Again reviewing for “plain error,” the Court found that even if the government breached the plea agreement by presenting drug quantity evidence that supported a higher sentence, the district court would have imposed the same sentence even based on a lower drug quantity. The defendant failed to establish a reasonable probability that the district court would have imposed a lower sentence.