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United States v. Hillyer

ELR Citation: 36 ELR 20151
Nos. No. 05-4295, (4th Cir., 08/01/2006)

The court vacates an individual's sentence for illegally dredging North Carolina's Croatan Sound during a bridge construction project and remands the case for resentencing. The district court misapplied U.S. Sentencing Guideline §5K2.20 when it granted the individual a downward departure for aberrant behavior. A defendant may be eligible for a §5K2.20 departure if he "committed a single criminal occurrence or single criminal transaction that (1) was committed without significant planning; (2) was of limited duration; and (3) represents a marked deviation by the defendant from an otherwise law-abiding life." Here, while the individual's conduct might have had a single motivation—to remove a temporary bridge—it was not a single occurrence or transaction. Rather, it constituted multiple criminal acts, with each occurrence of dredging representing a violation of his permit and applicable federal laws. Moreover, the crime was committed with considerable planning, and his conduct was not of limited duration. On remand, the district court must resentence the individual without granting any §5K2.20 departure.