Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Preponderance Standard Proper for Determining Whether Defendant Breached Plea Agreement

United States v. William Byrd, Docket No. 04-3607-cr (2d Cir. June 24, 2005) (Walker, Cardamon, Owen, D.J.) (per curiam): The Circuit holds in this very short opinion that the preponderance standard governs the determination of whether a defendant has breached a plea agreement, even after Booker. The entirety of the Court’s reasoning is this: “Booker. . . did not speak to nor, in our view, affect the appropriate standard of proof applicable to a finding that the defendant breached his plea agreement. Such a finding was before Booker, and remains after Booker, within the province of the sentencing judge subject to a preponderance of the evidence standard.” Op. at 3.

In itself, this decision is not of great significance. One wonders, however, what effect Byrd will have on a far more significant question that remains open in the Circuit: What is the appropriate standard of proof for fact-findings at sentencing that greatly increase the defendant’s sentencing range, especially if those facts concern either acquitted conduct or uncharged conduct?

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