By Jonathan Petree

In United States v. Trinidad, the First Circuit held that an illiterate, uneducated, and technologically-impaired individual acted as a “navigator” by virtue of keeping a boat on course from Colombia to Puerto Rico, thus subjecting him to a two-level sentencing enhancement in criminal proceedings for trafficking narcotics. In so doing, the majority furthered precedent that broadly applies the Federal Sentencing Guideline’s sentencing enhancement for controlled substance commerce involving a defendant who acts as “a pilot, copilot, captain, [or] navigator,” irrespective of any special skill actually possessed by a defendant. In response, Circuit Judge Torruella’s dissent in Trinidad illustrates the seemingly arbitrary impact that the majority’s broad statutory interpretation yields and posits significant arguments from equity against such broad application of the sentencing enhancements. Although precedent supports the majority’s broad reading of § 2D1.1(b)(3)(C), the plain inequity and lack of persuasive reasoning in the majority opinion results in the arbitrary furthering of overly punitive distribution of “justice.”

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Recommended Citation
Jonathan Petree, Navigating the Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Considerations of Equitable Impact After United States v. Trinidad, 83 J. Air L. & Com. 155 (2018)