Going "Too Far" Back in Time

United States v. Purham | 13-2916

July 2014

In United States v. Purham, the Seventh Circuit issued a rare setback to the government in its pursuit of relevant conduct. In short, Purham was convicted of a drug conspiracy starting in 2010. The government sought to include drug conduct dating back to 2008 (after which Purham served a period of incarceration). The Seventh Circuit, finding clear error, found an insufficient basis for the district court to include the 2008 conduct as relevant conduct, noting that none of the traditional factors that establish relevant conduct truly existed (common scheme or course of conduct). Of particular importance to the Court was the time gap between the “relevant conduct” and the charged conduct.

While defense counsel often sees the concept of relevant conduct as being limitless, Purham demonstrates that there are limits and defense counsel should be particularly attuned to temporal gaps between the purportedly linked conduct.