U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Balancing the Need for Enhanced Sentences for Perjury at Trial Under Section 3C1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines and the Defendant's Right to Testify

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 29 Issue: 3 Dated: (Spring 1992) Pages: 933-960
P J Henning
Date Published
28 pages
This article examines issues that stem from the Federal sentencing guidelines' provision for the enhancement of sentences in cases where the defendant is convicted after denying guilt under oath, based on the assumption of the defendant's perjury.
In United States v. Bonds (1991), the second circuit adopted an analysis that allows courts to increase the sentences of defendants who testify, based on the jury's vote to convict. In United States v. Dunnigan, the fourth circuit went to the opposite extreme in holding that section 3C1.1 of the sentencing guidelines imposes an intolerable burden on the defendant's right to testify. The Sentencing Commission should refine section 3C1.1 so as to avoid either of the extreme interpretations. Automatic sentence enhancement based solely on the jury's verdict cannot be justified under the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in Grayson, which specified that the sentencing court should not increase the defendant's sentence for perjury at trial in some "wooden or reflex fashion." The guideline's sparse treatment of the issue of the defendant's testimony allows circuit courts to uphold sentencing decisions that reflect little, if any, thought by the district court about whether or not the defendant's testimony amounted to perjury and whether or not increased punishment is appropriate. Yet the enhancement serves an important purpose by giving the judge discretion to protect the judicial process by punishing defendants who lie on the witness stand. The Sentencing Commission should expand its analysis by focusing on the effects perjury can have on the court's truth-finding function and on how to best protect defendants' rights. This balancing requires the commission to give clearer guidance to courts by explaining the need for specific factual findings and the importance of not automatically applying the section 3C1.1 adjustment. 129 footnotes


No download available