United States v. Alcala-Sanchez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 01-10-2012
  • Case #: 11-50030
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judges Nelson and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

When a prosecutor agrees to a stipulated plea agreement, then subsequently changes the recommended sentence to a greater sentence than agreed, it is a breach of the plea agreement and the case must be remanded for resentencing before a different judge.

Alcala admitted to a border patrol agent that he was in the country illegally. Alcala was charged with one count of “being a deported alien found in the United States”. Alcala entered into a “Fast-Track” plea agreement by pleading guilty and admitted to a previous deportation after a burglary conviction. The parties agreed to a base level offense of 12. In the presentence report (PSR), the Probation Office calculated the offense at a level 20 and Guidelines range of 63 to 78 months. Alcala filed a memorandum objecting to the PSR stating that the Government was bound by the plea agreement. The Prosecutor at a continued hearing apologized to the court and the defendant. The Prosecutor stated that Alcala was entitled to the benefit of the bargain and Alcala should have an offense level of 12. The district court held that the government had not breached the plea agreement and that it was obligated to calculate the correct sentence, which was 48 months. The Ninth Circuit held that the government breached the plea agreement. The Court found that when a plea rests on a promise or agreement by the prosecutor, based on inducement or consideration, the promise must be fulfilled. The Court found that the government’s admission of the mistake did not cure its breach of the agreement. The Court found that the only remedy for Alcala was a new sentencing hearing because the judge may have been influenced by the changed calculation. VACATED and REMANDED for resentencing before a different judge.

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