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What Arizona Defendants Must Do to Preserve a Challenge to the Reasonableness of a Sentence

If an Arizona criminal trial ends up in a conviction, the defendant is entitled to an appeal to review any and all alleged legal errors that were made by the court during the trial. While the right to an appeal is automatic, there is not necessarily a corresponding right for the appellate court to hear every issue that the defendant raises on appeal. Typically, to preserve an issue for appeal, the defendant must lodge an appropriate objection during the trial allowing the trial judge to correct the alleged error. If a defendant fails to make an objection to a judge’s legal decision during the trial, they may be precluded from raising the issue on appeal.

Importantly, not every issue needs to be objected to in order to preserve a defendants’ appellate rights. For example, a defendant can always challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal, even if the issue was not raised in a post-trial motion. However, most other potential issues, including evidentiary issues and weight-of-the-evidence issues, must be raised to be preserved. If an issue is not preserved, an appellate court can still review the record for plain error; however, this is an exceedingly difficult standard to meet.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear argument on a case involving the purported waiver of a defendant’s right to challenge the reasonableness of his sentence. In that case, the defendant was convicted of a federal drug crime and sentenced to 24 months of incarceration to be followed by a period of supervised release. While on supervised release, the defendant was arrested for another drug case. The defendant was convicted of the second drug offense, which was a violation of his supervised released. The defendant conceded that he was in violation of his supervised release, and asked the court for a concurrent 12-month sentence. However, the court sentenced the defendant to a consecutive 12-month term of imprisonment.

The defendant appealed the reasonableness of his sentence to the federal appellate court, which denied the defendant’s appeal. The court noted that the defendant raised the reasonableness argument for the first time on appeal, and thus reviewed the lower court’s sentence for plain error. Finding no plain error, the court rejected the defendant’s appeal.

The defendant appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that a challenge to the reasonableness of a sentence should not require the defendant to make a formal objection. The Court granted discretionary review; however, the Court has yet to hear argument on the case. The Court will likely hear argument in the next few months and issue an opinion by June 2020.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Crime?

If you have recently been arrested for a serious Arizona felony crime, you need an attorney who is familiar with the laws and how to preserve all your rights. Attorney James E. Novak is an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his practice to protecting the rights of his clients who face serious criminal accusations. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend your freedom from the charges you face, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.