Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, May 20, 2016

Parks: Failure to give reason for non-guideline sentence subject to de novo, not plain error, review

In U.S. v. Parks, No. 15-11618 (May 20, 2016), the Court held that, for a defendant sentenced, for violations of supervised release, to 60 months’ incarceration, above the guideline range of 21-27 months, the claim that the district court failed to consider the § 3553(a) factors was reviewable only for “plain error,” but the claim that the district court failed to give a “specific reason” for the non-guideline sentence, as required by § 3553(c)(2), was reviewable de novo – even though the defendant did not raise this objection in the district court. The Court reasoned that because § 3553(c)(2) “affirmatively requires the district court to provide a specific reason for a non-guideline sentence,” a contemporaneous objection is not needed; the silent record exposes the error. A district court’s reasons must be sufficiently specific so that an appellate court can engage in meaningful review. If a court does not give reasons, the case must be remanded for resentencing. The Court therefore vacated Parks’ sentence and remanded for resentencing.