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14-Day Resentencing Period is a Hard Deadline

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals interprets the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure strictly.

For example, Rule 35 allows a court to “correct a sentence that resulted from arithmetical, technical, or other clear error” within 14 days after sentencing.

What happens after 14 days? According to the Tenth Circuit, the court loses subject matter jurisdiction for resentencing when the period lapses.

Appellant Michael McGaughy pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and the district court sentenced him to 46 months' imprisonment. Months later, McGaughy filed a motion attacking the sentence, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing and asking for resentencing. (McGaughy claimed that his attorney should have sought a downward departure from the 46-month minimum recommended by the sentencing guidelines.)

The district court never formally granted McGaughy's motion. Instead, it issued an order vacating McGaughy's sentence and ordering resentencing. At resentencing, the district court again sentenced McGaughy to 46 months' imprisonment, and dismissed his motion as moot.

Exactly 14 days after resentencing, McGaughy filed a motion to correct sentence, which included a claim under Rule 35 and a second motion attacking the sentence. The district court denied the motion

Rule 35 only allows a 14-day period to correct sentencing error. Although McGaughy filed his motion to correct sentence exactly 14 days after the district court resentenced him, the court did not rule on the motion until several weeks later.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reasoned that Rule 35's time limit is jurisdictional, so the district court lost jurisdiction by not ruling on the motion the day it was filed. The Tenth Circuit reversed the lower court's denial of McGaughy's Rule 35(a) claim, and remanded the matter with instructions for the district court to dismiss the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Think of it this way, Rule 35 subject matter jurisdiction is much like Cinderella's carriage: after 14 days, it turns into a pumpkin, and can no longer carry a defendant's claims.

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