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Ninth Circuit Vacates Sentence Based on Improper Denial of Acceptance of Responsibility Point

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In United States v. Knight, No. 16-10404, the Ninth Circuit vacated a sentence after the government failed to recommend a third point off the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility point.

Knight originally pled not guilty and asked to extend his trial date. Knight also filed a motion to suppress evidence which was denied. Knight then asked for another trial date extension, later pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement, and then asked that it be withdrawn so he can plead “straight up.” At sentencing, the government refused to move for the third point for acceptance of responsibility because they were forced to prepare for a motion to suppress. There was no other justification or reasoning involved.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit noted that “a motion to suppress evidence cannot be held a against a defendant for purposes of the adjustment.” The court also noted that the government can only refuse to seek the third point for acceptance of responsibility for the reasons in Sentencing Guideline 3E1.1(b), which are “when failing to timely notify of an intention to enter a guilty plea either (1) did not allow the government to avoid preparing for trial or (2) impeded the government's or court's ability to allocate their resources efficiently.” The court noted that there may have been other things that could have been justification for the denial of the third point but that none of them had been referenced by the record.

The court vacated the sentence and remanded the case back to the trial court.  No. 16-10404

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