Wednesday, October 16, 2013

United States v. Lira: Mandatory Minimum sentence enhancement requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt

Lira appealed his 120-month mandatory minimum sentence imposed following his jury trial conviction for use or carrying and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). He was convicted in Counts I-III of possession and distribution of meth, and the District Court found by a preponderance of the evidence in Count IV that Lira discharged a firearm “during and in relation to or in furtherance” of a drug trafficking offense, which triggered the 10 year mandatory minimum consecutive sentence.
Lira appealed his 120-month mandatory minimum sentence imposed following his jury trial conviction for use or carrying and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). He was convicted in Counts I-III of possession and distribution of meth, and the District Court found by a preponderance of the evidence in Count IV that Lira discharged a firearm “during and in relation to or in furtherance” of a drug trafficking offense, which triggered the 10 year mandatory minimum consecutive sentence.
•On Appeal, Lira challenged the imposition of the 10 year sentence. At his sentencing, the law was Harris v United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002) (which held that discharge of firearm could be found by judge by preponderance of evidence); rule was reconsidered in Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013) and overruled.
Alleyne held that “facts that increase mandatory minimum sentences must be submitted to the jury” and established “beyond a reasonable doubt.” 
•The government conceded that Lira’s sentence on Count IV didn’t comport with Alleyne because the increased mandatory minimum sentence was based on a fact found by the district court by a preponderance of the evidence.  The Ninth ordered the district court to reexamine the entire sentence in light of the vacated sentence on Count IV.