Conviction for Drug Offenses Upheld, but Sentence Vacated
In US v. Young, No. 08-4117, the Fourth Circuit faced a challenge to a conviction of defendant for drug related offenses and a within-guidelines sentence of 136 months' imprisonment. In affirming the conviction, the court held that the district court did not err in concluding that the officers complied with their knock-and-rule announcement obligations. The court also held that there is no basis to suppress the evidence found in defendant's house, and that the evidence was sufficent to support defendant's conviction for conspiring to distribute cocaine.
However, the court vacated and remanded defendant's sentencing for resentencing as the district court erred by viewing the jury's drug-quantity determination as precluding the court from finding a higher quantity for sentencing purposes, and this error was not harmless.
As stated in the decision: In order to select a sentence within a jury-verdict-authorized maximum sentence, the district court must make relevant factual findings based on the court's view of the preponderance of the evidence. When making those factual findings, the district court may consider acquitted conduct, so long as the court determines that the conduct was established by a preponderance of the evidence. This judicial fact-finding was a critical part of the sentencing process before Booker, and it remains a critical part of the process after Booker."