Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hristov: Suitcase contents can be basis for sentence increase

In U.S. v. Hristov, No. 05-14122 (Oct. 4, 2006), the Court rejected the argument that a district court, for sentencing purposes, improperly relied on the quantity of drugs inside a suitcase, when the defendant claimed that he was given the suitcase not knowing what it contained.
The Court noted that the knowledge element of a violation of a criminal statute can be proved by demonstrating deliberate ignorance. Here, there was sufficient evidence of deliberate ignorance. Hristov was paid $5000 to transport a briefcase, in his own car, from Las Vegas NV to St. Petersburg FL. He received the briefcase from someone he had never previously met and delivered it to someone from whom he would later purchase cocaine. He admitted that transporting the briefcase made him nervous, and that cocaine could have been in the briefcase.
The Court also rejected the argument that the time frame of his conduct fell outside the period of the indictment. The Court noted that an open-ended start date can be alleged in an indictment, as was done here. Moreover, the defendant never objected at sentencing to the time period outlined in the PSR.