By Kim Sokolich

This week, in an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit Court of appeals rejected  appellant’s argument that that a twenty-four sentence prison term was “plainly unreasonable” when exchanged for supervised release.

James Thomas Lynwood Johnson was supposed to receive a supervised release sentence, when the District Court of Eastern North Carolina revoked this sentence in exchange for a twenty-four month prison term. Johnson challenged this sentence, arguing that it was plainly unreasonable. Normally, a district court has broad discretion to revoke supervised release in exchange for a prison sentence. Under the precedent set by United States v. Crudup, this sentence will be affirmed if the sentence is within the statutory mandatory minimum and not “plainly unreasonable.”

A supervised release revocation must be both procedurally and substantively reasonable to meet the plainly reasonable standard. Supervised release revocation is procedurally reasonable if it meets the sentencing guidelines set forth by 18 U.S.C. §3553(a). However, unlike the standard for simple prison sentencing, revocation does not have to explain the reasons for imposing a revocation sentence in detail. The court however, must still provide a simple statement of the reasons for the sentence imposed. A revocation sentence is substantially reasonable if the district court has stated a proper basis for concluding that the defendant should receive the sentence imposed, up to the statutory minimum. Only one of the these standards must fail for a sentence to be found plainly unreasonable.