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Setser v. United States

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: May 11, 2010
Case #: 10-7387
607 F.3d 128 (5th Cir. 2010)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions%5Cpub%5C08/08-10835-CR0.wpd.pdf

Sentencing: Whether a federal district court properly ordered a federal sentence to run consecutively to a not-yet-imposed state sentence.

Before a state sentence had been ordered for Setser, a federal district court sentenced Setser to 151 months of imprisonment to be served consecutively to his state sentence for violation of probation and an earlier narcotics charge. The Court of Appeals held that unless the Supreme Court intervenes on this issue, the Court of Appeals is bound by precedent and must affirm.

Setser argues that because his federal sentence was to run concurrently to one state sentence and consecutively to the other state sentence, the fact that the two state sentences were served simultaneously renders the federal sentence unreasonable. The court of appeals rejected this argument holding that the reasonableness of the federal sentence is determined based on the context of the initial sentencing. Setser additionally argues that 18 U.S.C. §3584 only allows the federal district court to order either a consecutive or concurrent sentence in two situations: 1) where the federal court itself is imposing multiple sentences at the same time and 2) where the defendant is “already subject to an undischarged term of imprisonment”; Setser argues that he does not fall into either of those categories and thus the district court did not have the authority to order him to serve a consecutive sentence. Setser contends that Congress demonstrates its clear intent not to grant federal district courts the authority to impose a concurrent sentence for a yet-to-be-determined term of imprisonment, by the language of “already subject to an undischarged term of imprisonment”. If this language is interpreted to grant authority to both yet-to-be-determined sentences as well as already determined sentences, the language is unnecessary and would make no sense.