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People v. Suitte

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Suitte was charged with criminal possession of a weapon after he was pulled over while in possession of an unlicensed pistol.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When an appellate court is reviewing a trial court’s sentencing, they may review for abuse of discretion or substituted standard discretion.

    Facts.

    Suitte (defendant) was pulled over while driving and arrested for unauthorized use of a vehicle. After being pulled over by officers in New York, they discovered a pistol in possession of Suitte. The pistol was only registered in North Carolina but not New York. Suitte pled guilty to criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and sentenced to 30 days in prison. The trial court noted that Suitte had never been convicted of a crime and had carried the pistol for protection because he operated a shop in a high crime area.

    Issue.

    Whether an appellate court reviewing a trial court’s sentencing, they may review for abuse of discretion or substituted standard discretion.

    Held.

    Yes. When an appellate court is reviewing a trial court’s sentencing, they may review for abuse of discretion or substituted standard discretion.

    Dissent.

    The trial court’s sentence is overly harsh because on the fact Suitte is a first time offender and has no criminal record and he only carried the weapon because he needed it for protection, justifiably.

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    When an appellate court reviews for abuse of discretion it is usually determining whether the trial court erred in their sentencing and legislatures have expressly allowed appellate courts to modify sentences at their own discretion. An appellate court may modify a trial court’s sentencing and substitute the trial court’s ruling in their own discretion. Due to the proliferation of gun related crimes, the New York legislature has cracked down on these crimes via harsher sentencing guidelines. As a part of this legislation, defendants who are found in possession of an illegal firearm will receive a mandatory term of one year in prison if convicted, but the law also allows for a lesser sentence for defendants who have not been previously convicted of a felony or class A misdemeanor, within the last 5 years. Thus, the trial court did not err in reducing Suitte’s sentence because they examined the circumstances surrounding the arrest and while appellate courts may review a trial court’s sentencing for abuse of discretion, trial courts are in the best position to determine a defendant’s sentence. The trial court viewed the legislative intent behind the law was a general deterrence to criminal offenders and the appellate court cannot reduce the sentence without sending an overall message that the law does not apply to first time offenders. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing a 30 day prison sentence for a first time offender.


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