Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Term of Imprisonment May Not Run Concurrently With a Discharged Term of Imprisonment

United States v. Lucas, Nos. 12-4840-cr(L), 13-0743(Con), 13-1075(Con) (2d Cir. Mar. 17, 2014) (Parker, Lynch, and Droney) (per curiam), available here

This published (and, therefore, precedential) decision reiterates what the Circuit had previously held only in non-precedential summary orders: that USSG 5G1.3(b) and 18 U.S.C. 3584 empower district courts to run sentences concurrently only to “undischarged” terms of imprisonment.

Defendants pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute drugs and to using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to that conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The district court sentenced all three defendants to the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment on both counts: ten years for the drug charge and a consecutive five-year term for the gun charge.

On appeal, defendants argued that the district court mistakenly believed that it had no authority to impose less than the mandatory minimum sentences by running those sentences concurrently to completed prison terms that defendants had previously served on related state charges.

The Circuit held that the district court correctly ruled that it had no such authority. The Court  noted that USSG 5G1.3(b) directs district courts to run a prison term “concurrently to the remainder of [any] undischarged term of imprisonment” if the recommended “term of imprisonment resulted from another offense that is relevant conduct to the . . . offense of conviction.” The Court held that this language plainly refers only to “undischarged” prison terms.

And 18 U.S.C. 3584 delineates only two categories of defendants who qualify for a concurrent sentence: those subject to “multiple terms of imprisonment … imposed … at the same time,” and those who are “already subject to an undischarged term of imprisonment.” The Court declared, “Nothing in the statute authorized the district court to extend the benefit of a concurrent sentence to a third category of defendants, those who have previously served sentences, now completed, for related crimes.”

 Finally, the Circuit held that neither USSG 5G1.3(b) nor 18 U.S.C. 3584 draws an irrational distinction between discharged and undischarged prison terms. Accordingly, those provisions are not unconstitutional under the equal protection component of the due process clause.

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