A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

By Burt Rose
Click to read Opinion

In United States versus Samuel Ortiz Garcia, docket number 10 – 2323, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled on December 7, 2011 on an appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. Ortiz had entered a guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement. He was not informed at the guilty plea proceedings as to the maximum penalty for the crime to which he was pleading guilty, which was life imprisonment pursuant to 18 US code section 924(C)(1)(a)(iii). Ortiz ultimately received a sentence of 360 months, although his plea agreement had recommended a sentence of 120 months.

On appeal, he argued that the waiver of appeal provision in his plea agreement was unenforceable because the District Court violated Rule 11 of the rules of criminal procedures by failing to inform him of the maximum penalty. While the district court did question Ortiz specifically about his understanding of the waiver of appeal provision in the plea agreement, the District Court failed to comply with the mandate of rule 11 that the defendant be informed of and ascertain that he understands the maximum possible penalty. The Court of Appeals concluded that the proceedings in the District Court constituted plain error (as these claims were being raised for the first time on this direct appeal).

Thus this case was remanded to the District Court for resentencing. However, the Court of Appeals expressly noted that the defendant could receive an even greater sentence after the remand and stated that Ortiz had “made the decision to proceed with this appeal with full knowledge of its potential consequences”.

The Free Student Research Center is now OPEN. It will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9AM to 3PM. The Free Student Research Center is available for use by attorneys who are current members of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and who are court-appointed to the case for which they seek research (either state or CJA!).

The Free Student Research Center is located in the Jack Myers Memorial Lounge on the Third Floor of the CJC. You may make a research request in person or via the Criminal Justice Section website at http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch

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