Williams v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Burning Cross at residence

DOCKET NO.: 90-6297
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 503 US 193 (1992)
ARGUED: Nov 06, 1991
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1992

Amy L. Wax - on behalf of the Respondent
Kenneth H. Hanson - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Williams v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 06, 1991 in Williams v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 09, 1992 in Williams v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice O'Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The first is Williams against the United States which comes to us on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The petitioner, Williams, was convicted in United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin for possession of a firearm while a convicted felon.

The applicable sentencing range under the federal sentencing guidelines was 18-24 months.

The District Court departed upward from this range and sentenced Williams to 27 months imprisonment.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed Williams' sentence even though it held that one of the two grounds that the District Court had given to support its upward departure was not a valid factor for consideration.

We granted certiorari to consider whether a Court of Appeals may affirm a sentence in which a District Court's departure from the guideline range is based on both valid and invalid factors.

Appellate review of federal sentencing decisions is governed by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 as amended.

In a decision filed today, we hold that in certain circumstances, the Act allows the Court of Appeals to affirm a departure sentence based in part of invalid factors.

The Reviewing Court may affirm the sentence if it determines that the District Court would have imposed the same sentence even without relying on the invalid factors and that the remaining valid factors are sufficient to justify the magnitude of the departure.

Because we are unable to ascertain if this was the analysis employed by the Court of Appeals in this case, we vacate the judgment below and remand for a determination consistent with the opinion.

Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion which is joined by Justice Kennedy.