Archive | ACCA

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Johnson is Retroactive

onwards

In last year’s Johnson v. United States, the Supreme Court held the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) void for vagueness.

In today’s Welch v. United States, the Supreme Court held Johnson applies retroactively.  Only Justice Thomas dissented.

This means defendants serving final sentences — meaning ones previously affirmed on appeal — are now eligible for relief if they were sentenced under ACCA’s residual clause.  This is true even if they’re arguably subject to ACCA’s force/elements clause: though the government’s position was that Mr. Welch merits no relief because his prior conviction for Florida robbery falls under that clause, the Court said that’s debatable and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The question lurking in the shadows here, which Welch didn’t address, is whether Johnson also has the effect of retroactively invalidating the residual clauses of the Career Offender Guideline, 18 U.S.C. § 16, 18 …

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Saturday, January 21st, 2012

PC World

United States v. Baker, No. 10-1925-cr (2d Cir. January 12, 2012) (Pooler, Parker, Carney, CJJ) (per curiam)

This latest per curiam affirms an Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) sentence, rejecting the defendant’s claims that his Vermont prison escape convictions were not ACCA predicates. The statute at issue contains two distinct offenses – failure to report to custody, which is not a predicate, and escape from custody. Baker agreed that his convictions were for escape from custody, but argued that the district court should have looked beyond the charging instruments to determine whether his actual conduct posed a sufficient degree of risk to qualify.

The circuit disagreed. While a sentencing court can, and sometimes must, look beyond the charging instrument, it cannot go beyond the judicial record evidence. Where the defendant pled guilty, the offense is a predicate if the record establishes that his plea necessarily admitted elements of a predicate …


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Categories: ACCA, crime of violence, escape, Uncategorized

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Saturday, March 5th, 2011

PC World

As usual, sentencing issues occupy the court in its most recent pair of per curiam opinions.

In Brown v. United States, No. 09-3495-pr (2d Cir. March 1, 2011) (Winter, Livingson, Lynch, CJJ) (per curiam), an appeal of the denial of a § 2255 motion, the court rejected an argument that the Sentencing Guidelines’ treatment of prior convictions affected the application of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). ACCA counts predicate convictions for crimes “committed on occasions different from one another” separately, even if the offenses happened on the same day, were not separated by an intervening arrest and concurrent sentences were imposed on the convictions in a single proceeding. For ACCA, the relevant considerations are only whether the victims and locations were different, and the degree to which the offenses were separated by the passage of time.

Brown had two prior robbery convictions that, under Guidelines section 4A1.2 – which …

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Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

PC World

United States v. Brown, No. 09-4991 (2d Cir. January 5, 2011) (Calabresi, Sack, Katzmann, CJJ) (per curiam)

The court’s latest per curiam holds that assaulting a correction officer, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-167c(a), satisfies the “catch-all” definition of “violent felony” in the Armed Career Criminal Act. Under Circuit law, an offense qualifies under the catch-all if it is both similar “in kind” and in “degree of risk posed” to the listed offenses of burglary, arson, extortion and the use of explosives.

The Connecticut offense is similar “in kind” because it requires the offender to intentionally prevent an officer from performing his duties, primarily in a prison setting, where “the act of injuring an employee for the purpose of preventing her from performing her official duties tends to entail especially violent consequences.”

As for the degree of risk posed, the court noted that the statute only applies where …


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Friday, August 13th, 2010

Court Reads the Riot Act

United States v. Johnson, No. 08-5245-cr (2d Cir. August 2, 2010) (Cabranes, Parker, CJJ, Amon, DJ)

In this split decision, the majority held that a conviction for the Connecticut offense of “Rioting at a Correctional Institution” is a “violent felony” under the “otherwise involves” clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”).

In getting there, the majority looked beyond the statute’s title – which “suggests an obvious answer ” – to examine the conduct that the statute actually proscribes. The Connecticut statute provides that a person is “guilty of rioting at a correctional institution when he incites, instigates, organizes, connives at, causes, aides, abets, assists or takes part in any disorder, disturbance, strike, riot or other organized disobedience to the rules and regulations of such institution.” Connecticut courts have “clarified” the meaning of the statute, holding that it is “specifically directed” at those who lead or plan prison disturbances and …


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Friday, July 10th, 2009

Daye of the Weak

United States v. Daye, No. 08-1012-cr (2d Cir. July 10, 2009) (Miner, Raggi, Livingston, CJJ)

Bruce Daye received an 180-month ACCA sentence. On appeal, he raised challenges to the use of all of his prior convictions as ACCA predicates, and the court sent the case back for further findings.

1. Escape

One of Daye’s prior convictions was for escape, most likely under Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1501. At the time of his federal sentencing, circuit law provided that, categorically, all escape convictions were crimes of violence for ACCA. Thus, although defense counsel objected to the characterization of the escape as a crime of violence, the district court made no findings as to the nature of the escape, which is now dispositive under Chambers v. United States, 129 S.Ct. 687 (2009).

Here, the PSR strongly suggested that Daye’s conviction arose from failing to return from a furlough, rendering it …


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No Escape

United States v. Mills, No. 07-0308-cr (2d Cir. June 26, 2009) (Kearse, Sack, Livingston, CJJ) (per curiam)

Gary Mills was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), and received a 188-month sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (ACCA). But for ACCA, his statutory maximum would have been 120 months’ imprisonment.

On appeal he argued, and both the government and the court of appeals agreed, that under Chambers v. United States, 129 S.Ct. 687 (2009), his Connecticut conviction for first-degree escape was not a violent felony.

The Connecticut statute proscribes a variety of conduct, ranging from escape from a correctional institution (which probably is a crime of violence) to failing to return to a halfway house or from a furlough. Here, at the sentencing hearing, the evidence established that Mills had been released from prison to “transitional supervision.” He lived in a private residence, but was …


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Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Restoration Drama

United States v. Bullock, No. 07-3059-cr (2d Cir. December 17, 2008) (Jacobs, Minor, Sotomayor, CJJ)

Bullock, a previously convicted felon, was convicted, after a jury trial, of possessing ammunition. He was subject to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), and actually received a sentence of 188 months. On appeal, he argued principally that his prior convictions – three robberies – were not ACCA predicates because his civil rights had been restored. See 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20). Specifically, he noted that he had “been off parole for 11 years,” was “entitled to vote,” and that New York law did not restrict his right to possess ammunition.

The circuit disagreed. Restoration of civil rights has three components – the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, and the right to hold elective office. The court agreed that Bullock’s rights to vote and hold office …


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Friday, November 14th, 2008

False Promise

United States v. Buie, 07-0258-cr (2d Cir. November 13, 2008) (McLaughlin, Leval, Pooler, CJJ)

For a drug conviction to be an ACCA predicate, it must be of an offense “for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii). David Buie pled guilty to a drug offense in New Jersey that carried a ten-year statutory maximum, but at his plea hearing the judge promised that he would not sentence Buie to more than eight years: “The [eight-year] plea bargain is the maximum. I could go under. I can’t go over.” The court of appeals rejected Buie’s argument that this promise took the conviction out of ACCA, noting that “Supreme Court precedent … requires that we look to the definition of the offense established by the state legislature.” Moreover, this is not the type of situation where a court looks “beyond …

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Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

It Depends Upon What the Meaning of the Word “Is” Is

United States v. Darden, No. 06-4567-cr (2d Cir. August 15, 2008) (Cardamone, Pooler, CJJ, Keenan, DJ)

Under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (“ACCA”), a felon-in-possession of a firearm or ammunition faces a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence (the maximum is life) if he has at least three prior convictions for felony crimes of violence and/or “serious” drug offenses. The statute defines “serious” drug offenses as those for which the maximum penalty that “is prescribed” is ten years or more.

These four consolidated appeals all arose from the application of this definition to defendants whose past convictions were for New York State Class C or Class B (first offender) drug felonies. Until 2005, the maximum penalty for such offenses was more than ten years. Effective January of 2005, the state reduced the maximum penalty for such offenseses to less than ten years, but the amelioration is not retroactive.…

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Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Youthful Indiscretion

United States v. Parnell, No. 06-4551-cr (2d Cir. April 23, 2008) (Winter, Straub, Sack, CJJ) (per curiam)

In this case, the court again holds that a New York youthful offender adjudication (a “y.o.”) – here, it was for attempted burglary in the second degree – must be included in the defendant’s criminal history score under the sentencing guidelines and, where applicable, can trigger the “career offender” enhancement.

There is nothing new or surprising about this. What is interesting about this case is its strong dicta that a y.o is not a predicate under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Indeed, the circuit cites with approval United States v. Fernandez, 390 F. Supp.2d 277 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (litigated and won by this very blogger), which so held, and notes that, here, the district court followed Fernandez in declining to sentence Parnell under ACCA, a sentence, not incidentally, that the government did not …


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