By: Caroline Daniel

Is a Defendant’s Sentence Appealable if He is Released While the Appeal is Pending?

A defendant’s sentence is not necessarily appealable if he is released while the appeal is pending. Today, in United States v. Duane McAtee, the Fourth Circuit dismissed the Defendant’s appeal of his six month conviction as moot.  Duane McAtee was convicted of contempt of court, and was sentenced to serve six months.  He appealed this conviction, but while his appeal was pending, he was released.

On Appeal, the Court May Address Sua Sponte a “Live Case or Controversy.”

The Fourth Circuit addressed McAtee’s claim sua sponte.  Citing Friedman’s, Inc. v. Dunlap, the Court stated, “We may address sua sponte whether an issue on appeal presents ‘a live case or controversy . . . since mootness goes to the heart of the Article III jurisdiction of the courts.”  Here, the Court determined that a live case or controversy no longer existed.

McAtee’s Sentence No Longer Presented a “Live Case or Controversy.”

When the Court addressed McAtee’s appeal, he had already been released from his imprisonment.  The Fourth Circuit implied that McAtee’s appeal might have been preserved if he had raised “any collateral consequences of it.”  However, McAtee did not raise any collateral consequences.  Coupling this with his early release, the Fourth Circuit held that McAtee’s appeal no longer contained any live case or controversy regarding the duration of his incarceration.

McAtee’s Appeal Dismissed as Moot.

Finding that there was no appealable controversy remaining after McAtee’s release, the Fourth Circuit dismissed his appeal as moot.  The Court dispensed with oral argument, determining that the facts that were before the panel were sufficient pieces of evidence to warrant dismissal.