United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
defendant, Alexx K. McKnight, appeals the sentence imposed by
the United States Magistrate Judge for violations of her
probation. On February 19, 2019, the Magistrate Judge
sentenced McKnight to nine months imprisonment and one year
of supervised release with special conditions. This Court
finds the sentence procedurally and substantively reasonable
and will affirm the Magistrate Judge's decision.
November 28, 2018, McKnight pled guilty to driving with a
suspended or revoked driver's license in a national park.
The Magistrate Judge sentenced her to 12 months of probation
with certain conditions, a sentence below the U.S. Sentencing
Guidelines ("Guidelines") range. Specifically, he
required her to spend a weekend in jail, participate in
substance abuse treatment, abstain from using alcohol, submit
to alcohol testing, attend 90 Narcotics Anonymous
("NA") or Alcoholics Anonymous ("AA")
meetings in 90 days, and obtain an NA or AA sponsor. McKnight
began her term of probation on November 28, 2018.
December 17, 2018, authorities in Culpeper, Virginia,
arrested McKnight and charged her with driving while
intoxicated for the second time in five years, driving with a
revoked license, and speeding. As a result, the U.S.
Probation Office filed a petition alleging that McKnight
breached the conditions of her probation by (1) failing to
abstain from alcohol, and (2) committing new
crimes. McKnight pled guilty to the two
violations. The Guidelines calculated an advisory range of 6
to 12 months imprisonment for the violations, with a
statutory maximum of 12 months. McKnight requested 60 days in
prison and a residential substance abuse treatment program.
After the incident, McKnight learned that she was pregnant,
so she asked for a sentence that would allow her to avoid
giving birth in prison. The government sought a sentence of
at least nine months followed by one year of supervised
considering the relevant sentencing factors in 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(a), the Magistrate Judge sentenced McKnight to
nine months of imprisonment. The Magistrate Judge focused on
McKnight's need for substance abuse treatment, her
pregnancy, and the danger that she posed to the public with
her repeated alcohol and drug related offenses. He also
observed the "serious breach of trust" implicated
by the brief period between the commencement of her probation
and the violations. (Dk. No. 26, at 2.) The Magistrate Judge
recommended that the Bureau of Prisons place McKnight in the
Greenbrier Birthing Center MINT Program during her last
trimester, if she consented. Finally, he imposed one year of
supervised release, with conditions requiring McKnight to
complete an inpatient substance abuse program and continue
with outpatient treatment thereafter, consume no alcohol,
submit to remote alcohol testing using a Soberlink device,
attend 90 NA or AA meetings in 90 days and obtain a sponsor,
and abstain from driving.
timely appealed her sentence on March 5, 2019, arguing that
the Magistrate Judge imposed a procedurally and substantively
STANDARD OF REVIEW
defendant may appeal a magistrate judge's decision to a
district judge pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure
58(g)(2)(B). "The defendant is not entitled to a trial
de novo by a district judge. The scope of the appeal is the
same as in an appeal to the court of appeals from a judgment
entered by a district judge." Fed. R. Crim. P.
58(g)(2)(D). "A district judge should affirm a sentence
imposed by a magistrate judge unless it is unreasonable or
resulted from a significant procedural error."
United States v. Fore-Durham, No. 3:16-cr-10, 2016
WL 2689064, at *2 (E.D. Va. May 9, 2016). Procedural errors
include improperly calculating or failing to calculate the
Guidelines range, viewing the Guidelines as mandatory,
neglecting to consider the § 3553(a) factors, relying on
clearly erroneous facts, and failing to adequately explain
the sentence. United States v. Diosdado-Star, 630
F.3d 359, 363 (4th Cir. 2011).
a procedural error, a district court must examine the
substantive reasonableness of a magistrate judge's
sentence using a deferential abuse of discretion standard.
Fore-Durham, 2016 WL 2689064, at *2. "A
sentence may be substantively unreasonable if the court
relies on an improper factor or rejects policies articulated
by Congress or the Sentencing Commission." United
States v. Moreland, 42>1 F.3d 424, 434 (4th Cir.
2006). A sentence within a properly calculated Guidelines
range enjoys a presumption of reasonableness, but a defendant
can rebut the presumption by showing that the sentence is
unreasonable when measured against the § 3553(a)
factors. United States v. Louthian, 756 F.3d 295,
306 (4th Cir. 2014).
contends that the Magistrate Judge imposed a procedurally
unreasonable sentence because he failed to adequately explain
the sentence. While a court must explain every sentence,
regardless of whether it falls above, below, or within the
Guidelines, the court "need not be as detailed or
specific when imposing a revocation sentence as it must be
when imposing a postconviction sentence." United
States v. Thompson, 595 F.3d 544, 547 (4th Cir. 2010).
The court must provide a statement of reasons for the
sentence, id., but it does not need to
"robotically tick through § 3553(a)'s every
subsection." United States v. Moulden, 478 F.3d
652, 657 (4th Cir. 2007). The sentencing court need only show
that it considered the § 3553(a) factors and any
potentially meritorious arguments, so that the appellate
court can effectively review the sentence for reasonableness.
Id. Furthermore, a sentencing court may attribute
more weight to some factors than to others. United States
v. Pauley, 511 F.3d 468, 475-76 (4th Cir. 2007).
after giving the parties an opportunity to argue for an
appropriate sentence,  the Magistrate Judge explicitly considered
the § 3553(a) factors most relevant to McKnight's
case. See Coleman, 2016 WL 2658160, at *4 (noting
that the magistrate judge did not need to discuss each
factor, but he "highlighted the factors he deemed
integral to the imposition of [the] sentence"). First,
regarding protecting the public, the Magistrate Judge noted
the dangers associated with McKnight's repeated drunk
driving. McKnight was driving two other individuals at the
time of the instant probation violation, in addition to her
unborn baby, although she did not realize that she was
pregnant at the time. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge
explained that the sentence he imposed would protect not only
McKnight and the community, but also the unborn child.
promoting respect for the law, the Magistrate Judge pointed
out that McKnight's record demonstrated a lack of regard
for society's rules. See Fore-Durham, 2016 WL
2689064, at *3 (affirming a magistrate judge's sentence
when the judge relied on the defendant's criminal history
and the need to deter future conduct). McKnight had
convictions for DUI, driving while drinking, public
intoxication, and possession of drugs. Her driving history
included 17 infractions, resulting in a driving record of ...