Archive | ACCA

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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Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Risky Business

United States v. Lynch, No. 05-6048-cr (2d Cir. February 27, 2008) (Calabresi, Raggi, Hall, CJJ)

David Lynch received a 15-year sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) and appealed. In an opinion that covered no new ground, the circuit affirmed. It held (again) that New York State convictions for attempted burglary in the third degree (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 110/140.20) and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 265.03) both involve “conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”

For the attempted burglary, the court reaffirmed its decision in United States v. Andrello, 9 F.3d 247 (2d Cir. 1993) (per curiam), and also noted that a recent Supreme Court case, James v. United States, 127 S.Ct. 1586 (2007), held that attempted burglary is an ACCA predicate.

Similarly, in United States v. Danielson, 199 F.3d 666 (2d Cir. 1999) (per …


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Friday, November 2nd, 2007

The Good Shepard

United States v. Rosa, No. 05-3621-cr (2d Cir. October 30, 2007) (Kearse, Sack, CJJ, Mills, DJ)

The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) requires increased penalties for defendants in federal gun possession cases who have three prior convictions for serious drug offenses or “violent felonies.” This case concerns the “categorical approach” to determining whether a prior conviction resulting from a guilty plea was to an offense that qualified as a “violent felony.”

In 1991, Rosa pled guilty to robbery in the first degree, an offense he committed when he was 15, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 160.15(4), which makes it an offense to commit a robbery and display “what appeared to be” a firearm. The government contended that this conviction was an ACCA predicate as an “act of juvenile delinquency … involving the use or carrying of a firearm.” Two other ACCA predicates were not in dispute.

The district …


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