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Law School Case Brief

People v. Suitte - 90 A.D.2d 80, 455 N.Y.S.2d 675 (App. Div. 1982)


Appellate review determines whether a sentence is excessive to the extent that there was a failure to observe the principles of sentencing. In such review, the court takes a "second look" at the sentences in light of the societal aims which such sanctions should achieve. In reducing any sentence, the appellate body must be sensitive to the fact that its actions become guidelines for the trial court to follow in the imposition of future sentences under circumstances similar to the case reviewed.


James Suitte, a college-educated 46-year-old man with two children, who had never before been convicted of a crime and who was aware of New York's gun licensing requirement, pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. Suitte claimed that a gun was necessary because the tailor shop he operated was in a high crime area.  Suitte was sentenced to 30 days of imprisonment and three years of probation when the sentencing Judge found the mandatory one-year jail provision too severe. On appeal, Suitte contended that the jail sentence was excessive and an abuse of discretion. 


Was the sentence excessive and an abuse of sentencing discretion by the trial court?




The Court held that there was no abuse of discretion, there was no failure to observe sentencing principles, and there was no need to impose a different view of discretion from that of the trial court. Even though Suitte was not a danger to society or in apparent need of rehabilitation, the trial court could look beyond Suitte to the general deterrent effect of the sentence on others.

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