Wade v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:Mississippi Governor’s Office

DOCKET NO.: 91-5771
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 504 US 181 (1992)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1992
DECIDED: May 18, 1992

J. Matthew Martin – on behalf of the Petitioner
Robert A. Long, Jr. – on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Wade v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 23, 1992 in Wade v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 18, 1992 in Wade v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No.91-5771, Wade against the United States will be announced by Justice Souter.

David H. Souter:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Petitioner, Harold Ray Wade, pleaded guilty to federal charges of drug trafficking and gun possession.

At his sentencing hearing, Wade argued that the applicable sentencing statute and guideline permitted the District Court to go below the mandatory 10-year sentence for his conviction on the drug charges because after his arrest, he had helped the government catching another drug dealer.

The District Court held that it had no authority to go below the minimum unless the government filed a motion to that effect.

Because the government had not filed such a motion, the District Court’s sentence weighed to 10 years in prison on the drug charges.

The Court of Appeals affirmed holding that the District Court had correctly found itself without authority to depart.

The Court of Appeals specifically rejected Wade’s argument that the District Court at least had the power to review the government’s refusal to file a motion upon a claim that its refusal resulted from an unconstitutional motive.

We agree with Wade that the District Court has authority to review the government’s decision to withhold a substantial assistance motion when a defendant makes a substantial showing that the refusal reflected an unconstitutional motive.

In this case, however, Wade failed in the District Court to make any showing of unconstitutional motive even though the District Court gave him an adequate opportunity for doing so.

We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.