United States v. Rangel

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 07-20-2012
  • Case #: 11-50062
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court; Circuit Judges Farris and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

A district court may vary, but not depart from, a sentence under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines without notice, and may consider a defendant's inability to pay restitution as a factor to vary the sentence.

Juan Rangel pled guilty to mail fraud and money laundering through his business, Financial Plus Investments. Rangel engaged in mortgage fraud and investment schemes that resulted in financial losses for homeowners and lenders. The district court imposed a sentence longer than that suggested by the parties and by the advisory Sentencing Guidelines. Rangel appealed, objecting to the district court’s consideration of his inability to pay restitution and imposition of consecutive sentences. The Court addressed the consecutive sentence question in terms of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(h), which requires notice if a district court intends to depart from the Guidelines sentencing range. To begin, the Court distinguished between a “departure” and a “variance,” the latter of which does not require notice. The district court did not mention a departure in its rationale for the consecutive sentences, and explicitly relied on variance factors detailed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). As such, no notice was required. The Court also concluded the district court did not err in considering Rangel’s inability to pay restitution to his victims. A court may not impose a longer term in substitution for restitution, so as to not create discrimination against poor or indigent defendants. However, the district court may consider that information when varying from the Guidelines based on § 3553(a) factors. The Court concluded the consideration of Rangel’s inability to pay was focused on victim impact, and was not intended to punish Rangel. AFFIRMED.

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