Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, March 06, 2009

Shaw: Variance to Statutory Maximum Not Unreasonable

In U.S. v. Shaw, No. 07-14693 (Mar. 3, 2009), the Court affirmed an upward variance from a guideline range of 30-37 months to the statutory maximum of 120 months, for an offender convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The Court agreed with the district court’s assessment that, in light of Shaw’s past criminal history, he was "just a step or two away from violent crime." "The public should not wait until he takes those last steps before the district court can provide it with the maximum protection the law allows."
The Court rejected the argument that the district court failed to support its prediction of Shaw’ future violence with any "empirical" study. The Court noted that district courts have "wide latitude" in applying what they have learned from other cases. Here, moreover, Shaw was arrested with ski masks in his possession, headed toward a drug hole to rob it, vindicating the district court’s assessment. The Court also rejected Shaw’s reliance on lesser punishments imposed in like cases.