By: Katharine Yale

Yesterday in United States v. Naumann, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the sentence of a defendant who pled guilty to failure to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. The district court sentenced him to a thirty-five month sentence, a sentence within the Guidelines, and also to an above-Guidelines term of supervised release for fifteen years. The defendant appealed, claiming that the sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable.

The Standard of Review for Review of a Sentencing Judgment is a Two-Step Inquiry.

The court reiterated the two-step process for use in reviewing a district court’s sentence. First, the court must determine whether the district court committed a significant procedural error. Such an error could include failing to calculate the Guidelines range, failing to consider the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors, selecting a sentence based on clearly erroneous facts, or failing to adequately explain the sentence.

Next, if there is no significant procedural error, the court must determine whether the sentence is substantively reasonable. Here, under an abuse of discretion standard, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances, including any variance from the Guidelines range.

The district court is given deference and the fact that the Fourth Circuit would have imposed a different sentence is not enough to justify a reversal.

The Sentence and Above-Guidelines Term of Supervised Release Was Not Imposed in Error.

The defendant argued that the district court did not consider the § 3553(a) factors in its decision. However, the record showed that the district court did address the factors and as such, the court found that the sentence was not imposed in error.

Next, the defendant argued that the above-Guidelines term of supervision was imposed in error. First, on procedural grounds, he argued that the factual findings relied on by the district court were erroneous and that the district court did not adequately explain the conditions of supervision.

As to the erroneous facts, the court rejected the defendant’s argument because any error in considering a Facebook post was harmless, and the fact that the court misspoke about a previous failure to register was actually the court alluding to part of the conduct underlying the offense. The court found that the sentencing transcript did adequately explain the reasoning for the condition of supervision. Thus, there was no procedural error.

The court also rejected the defendant’s claim that the length of supervision imposed by the district court was substantively unreasonable. While the court did rely on precedent in its decision, it properly conducted an individualized assessment of defendant’s case before deciding on the sentencing variance.   Next, the court found that the district court did not improperly consider the need for punishment in imposing a sentencing variance because it was only mentioned with respect to the consideration of deterrence and the protection of the public.

Finally, the defendant’s last argument was that the requirements of the supervised release themselves were substantively unreasonable. The court rejected this argument under a plain error standard (the defendant did not object to the requirements at sentencing) because defendant’s sex offense was less than five years old, and the district court decided to monitor defendant’s behavior through polygraph testing and mental health treatment to determine whether sex offender treatment is necessary.  Instead of requiring sex offender treatment, the district court took the more measured approach and therefore, there was no plain error.

District Court Judgment Affirmed.

The Fourth Circuit held that the sentence imposed by the district court was procedurally and substantively reasonable. Thus, the sentence imposed by the district court was affirmed.