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United States v. Chavez-Meza

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

April 14, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
ADAUCTO CHAVEZ-MEZA, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO (D.C. NO. 1:12-CR-00701-WJ-1)

         Submitted on the Briefs:

          Todd A. Coberly, Coberly & Martinez, LLLP, Santa Fe, New Mexico, for Appellant.

          James R.W. Braun, Assistant United States Attorney, and Damon P. Martinez, United States Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Appellee.

          Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, SEYMOUR, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge.

         This case requires us to determine how much explanation a district court must provide when granting a sentence-reduction motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and choosing a sentence within the revised Sentencing Guidelines range.

         Adaucto Chavez-Meza pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges in 2013. He originally received a prison sentence of 135 months, the Sentencing Guidelines minimum. In 2014, the Sentencing Commission amended the Guidelines to reduce the relevant offense levels. Chavez-Meza then sought and was granted a sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). He requested the court reduce his sentence to 108 months, the minimum under the revised guidelines range, but the court only reduced his sentence to 114 months. In confirming the new sentence, the district court issued a form order stating it had "tak[en] into account the policy statement set forth at USSG § 1B1.10 and the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)." Chavez-Meza appeals his reduced sentence, claiming the district court erred by failing to adequately explain how it applied the § 3553(a) factors in imposing a 114-month sentence.

         We AFFIRM the district court's sentence-reduction order. Section 3582(c)(2) does not require additional explanation when a district court imposes a guidelines sentence and affirmatively states that it considered the § 3553(a) factors in its decision.

         I. Background

         Chavez-Meza pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. His guidelines range was 135-168 months. The government recommended a 135-month sentence at the low end of the range, which the sentencing court accepted. The court explained "the reason the guideline sentence is high in this case . . . is because of the quantity, 1.75 kilograms of actual methamphetamine. . . . [O]ne of the other reasons that the penalty is severe in this case[] is because of methamphetamine. It destroys . . . individual lives, it destroys families, it can destroy communities." App., Vol. IV at 15.

         In 2015, after the Sentencing Commission amended the Guidelines and reduced the applicable guidelines for this type of crime, Chavez-Meza filed a pro se motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), asking the district court to modify his sentence.

         The district court appointed counsel to represent Chavez-Meza, and the government consented to a "stipulated agreement in petition for reduced sentence." App., Vol. I at 40-41. In the petition they agreed that amendments to the guidelines range resulted in a lower 108- to 135-month sentencing range. Accordingly, Chavez-Meza filed a request for a 108-month sentence, at the low end of the revised range. The government did not offer guidance on a specific sentence.

         There is no requirement that district courts hold a hearing in a § 3582(c)(2) sentence-reduction proceeding. United States v. Piper, 839 F.3d 1261, 1270 (10th Cir. 2016). Without doing so, then, the district court issued an order on a two-page standard form reducing Chavez-Meza's sentence to 114 months. The form, an "AO-247, " is a document prepared by the Federal Judiciary's Administrative Office. It requires the district court to state it has "tak[en] into account the policy statement set forth at USSG § 1B1.10 and the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), to the extent that they are applicable." It also requires the court provide both the previous and amended total offense level, criminal history category, and guidelines range. The court must then check a box indicating where the sentence falls relative to ...


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