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United States v. Merino

Citation: 30 ELR 20134
No. No. 98-50037, 190 F.3d 956/(9th Cir., 09/13/1999)

The court vacates a sentence that imposed a four-level upward adjustment against a company owner who unlawfully transported and stored hazardous waste. The lower court increased the penalty under the sentencing guidelines because the cost of cleaning up the contamination would be a "substantial" expense to a reasonable person. The court holds, however, that the "substantial expenditure" adjustment should be read in the context with other offenses that provide for a four-level penalty enhancement, such as those that cause the disruption of public utilities or the evacuation of a community. Therefore, to be "substantial," the expenditure ought to have a much greater financial impact than the run-of-the-mill contamination, and the $ 15,775 spent on cleaning the waste in this case did not rise to that magnitude. The court, therefore, remands the case for resentencing.

Counsel for Plaintiff
William W. Carter, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
1200 U.S. CtHse.
312 N. Spring St., Los Angeles CA 90012
(213) 894-2434

Counsel for Defendant
Korey House, Deputy Federal Public Defender
Federal Public Defender's Office
321 E. Second St., Los Angeles CA 90012
(213) 894-2854

Before Kozinski and Graber, JJ.