Archive | categorical approach

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

New York Penal Law 130.45 Not a “Prior Sex Offense” Under the Categorical Approach

Today the Second Circuit applied the categorical approach and vacated a life sentence. In United States v. Kroll, the Circuit held that under the categorical approach, the defendant’s 1993 conviction under New York Penal Law 130.45 did not constitute a “prior sex offense” as defined by 18 U.S.C. 3559(e)(1), and thus did not trigger a mandatory life sentence, because the state statue sweeps more broadly than its federal equivalent.

For a prior state conviction to count as a “prior sex offense,” it must “‘consist[] of conduct that would be a Federal sex offense’ if there were a basis for Federal jurisdiction.'” Opinion at 10. The Circuit held that a district court must employ the categorical approach when determining whether the state statute consists of conduct that would be a Federal sex offense. Under the categorical approach, courts “ask[] whether the least of conduct made criminal by the state statute …


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Categories: categorical approach, sex offenses

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Friday, January 25th, 2019

The 924(c)(3)(B) Circuit Split Grows (in a Good Way)

This week, the Fourth Circuit held in United States v. Simms, No. 15-4640 (4th Cir. 2019) (en banc) that § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause is unconstitutionally vague and therefore that conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence. The decision deepens the Circuit split on this issue, which the Supreme Court will soon address in Davis.

Notably, the en banc majority in Simms declined to apply the constitutional avoidance canon to adopt a conduct-specific reading of § 924(c)(3)(B). The avoidance canon has “no application,” the Court stated, where “there is an absence of more than one plausible construction” of the statute. Slip op. at 41 (quotation marks omitted). As the Court explained elsewhere, the government’s favored reading of § 924(c)(3)(B) is implausible because its text and structure “unambiguously require courts to analyze the attributes of an ‘offense that is a felony . . . by …


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Categories: 924(c), categorical approach, conspiracy, crime of violence, Hobbs Act, Johnson

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Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Loss in Stokeling

Yesterday, in Stokeling v. United States, the Supreme Court held that Florida robbery is a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). In doing so, the Court modified Johnson‘s understanding of the degree of “force” necessary for to satisfy the ACCA’s force clause. The excellent summary below is courtesy of Aamra Ahmad, of the Sentencing Resource Counsel Project, and Paresh Patel, Appellate Chief for the District of Maryland Federal Defenders:

Today, in Stokeling v. United States (17-5554), the Court revisited the meaning of the term “physical force” as it is used in the elements clause of the ACCA statute. In Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010), the Court defined “physical force” as a quantity of “force capable of causing physical pain or injury.” But in Johnson, the Court also used words such as “severe,” “extreme,” “furious,” or “vehement” to define “physical …


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Categories: ACCA, categorical approach, robbery

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Friday, January 11th, 2019

Cert. Grant in Davis

The Supreme Court recently granted a certiorari petition in Davis v. United States that presents the following questions:

(1) Whether 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutionally vague;

(2) whether Hobbs Act robbery is a “crime of violence” as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3); and

(3) whether a prior Texas conviction for burglary is a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).

Practitioners should take care to preserve challenges to § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause notwithstanding the Second Circuit’s holding in Barrett, and to preserve arguments that offenses such as Hobbs Act robbery (and conspiracy to commit that offense) are not crimes of violence under  § 924(c)(3). (Note that, as of the date of this post, the mandate has not issued in Barrett.)…


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Categories: 924(c), ACCA, categorical approach, certiorari, conspiracy, crime of violence, Hobbs Act, Johnson

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Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Barrett Petition for Rehearing and the Growing 924(c)(3)(B) Circuit Split

A petition for rehearing, available here, has been filed in United States v. Barrett, No. 14-2641 (2d Cir. 2018), which held that § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause is not unconstitutionally vague and that conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence.  Practitioners with Johnson petitions pending in district courts should, in appropriate cases, consider requesting stays pending the resolution of this petition.

In addition, the First Circuit has recently held that 924(c)’s residual clause is not void for vagueness.  See United States v. Douglas, No. 18-1129 (1st Cir. Oct. 12, 2018), opinion available here. There is now a 3-3 circuit split on this question:

Three Circuits have held that § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional in light of Dimaya. See United States v. Davis, 903 F.3d 483 (5th Cir. 2018); United States v. Eshetu, 898 F.3d 36 (D.C. Cir. 2018); United States


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Categories: 924(c), categorical approach, crime of violence, Johnson

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Friday, October 12th, 2018

ACCA Oral Arguments in Stokeling & Stitt (and FDNY nondelegation argument in Gundy!)

This week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases addressing whether specific state offenses are violent felonies within the meaning of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA): Stokeling v. United States (Florida robbery statute that punishes takings by slight force), and United States v. Stitt (state burglary statutes that punish vehicle break-ins). The statutes at issue are similar to the New York robbery and burglary statutes in their scope.

For a detailed analysis of the arguments in these cases, see Rory Little’s analysis at SCOTUSBlog.

The transcript in Stokeling is available here.

The transcript in Stitt, which featured a masterful oral argument by Jeffrey Fisher, is available here.

Speaking of masterful, the FDNY’s Sarah Baumgartel recently argued before the Supreme Court in United States v. Gundy on the question of whether SORNA’s delegation of authority to the Attorney General under 42 U.S.C. § 16913 …


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Categories: ACCA, burglary, categorical approach, robbery, Sex offender registration

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Friday, September 7th, 2018

Second Circuit Holds that all Degrees of New York Robbery Are Crimes of Violence

A Second Circuit panel held today that, under the force clause of the subsequently revised U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2 (2014), all degrees of New York robbery are crimes of violence. United States v. Pereira-Gomez, No. 17-952 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Carney, Caproni (SDNY)) (appeal from Azrack, J., EDNY), opinion available here. Despite this holding, practitioners are urged to preserve the argument that New York robbery is not a crime of violence under the force clause, as the Supreme Court will soon be deciding this issue in Stokeling v. United States, No. 17-5554.

Mr. Pereira-Gomez was convicted of illegal reentry, in violation of 8 U.S.C.§§ 1326(a) and 1326(b)(2). The version of U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2 then in effect provided for a sentencing enhancement if the defendant had a prior conviction for an offense that “has as an element the use,attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against …


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Categories: ACCA, categorical approach, robbery

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Monday, August 27th, 2018

Judge Gold Holds that New York Third Degree Robbery Is Not a Violent Felony Under the ACCA

Magistrate Judge Gold (SDNY) recently issued a Report & Recommendation (R&R), available here, concluding that third degree New York robbery, N.Y. Penal Law §160.05, is not a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). See Baldwin v. United States, No. 16-CV-3350. Judge Korman has adopted the R&R.

Judge Gold’s reasoning will be familiar to those who have read opinions by the First Circuit, Judge Rakoff, and others reaching the same conclusion. Significantly, Judge Gold rejects the reasoning of a Sixth Circuit opinion, Perez v. United States, 885 F.3d 984, 990 (6th Cir. 2018), holding that third degree NY robbery is a crime of violence under the ACCA. The Sixth Circuit’s holding, Judge Gold explains, relies on a recent New York Court of Appeals case for the proposition that New York robbery cannot be “a taking” “by sudden or stealthy …


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Categories: ACCA, categorical approach, robbery

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Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Second Circuit Holds That NYPL § 220.31 (5th Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance) Is Not A “Controlled Substance Offense” Under USSG 4B1.2(b)

Last week the Second Circuit held that NY Penal Law § 220.31 (fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance) is not a “controlled substance offense” under USSG 4B1.2(b). See United States v. Townsend, No. 17-757 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Carney, Vilardo (W.D.N.Y.)) (appeal from Irizarry, C.J., E.D.N.Y.). The opinion is available here.

The upshot of Townsend is that any New York state statute that just uses the term “controlled substance” is not a controlled substance offense for purposes of the Career Offender Guideline. As our office’s Daniel Habib explains, the analysis in Townsend is straightforward:

(1) The term “controlled substance” in USSG 4B1.2(b) refers exclusively to those substances in the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA), 21 USC § 802.

(2) NY Penal Law § 220.31 criminalizes the sale of a drug, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), that is not included in the CSA.

(3) NY Penal Law § 220.31 …


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Categories: categorical approach

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Friday, June 15th, 2018

Sua Sponte, Post-Dimaya Order Granting Leave to File a Successive 2255 Motion

On the post-Dimaya front, the Second Circuit gave us some good—but easily overlooked—news last week. See Acosta v. United States, No. 16-1492 (2d Cir. 2018) (Jacobs, Livingston, Droney) (clerk’s order). In a sua sponte order, available here, the Circuit granted leave to file a successive 2255 petition arguing that a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional.

Here’s the analysis:

Petitioner has “made a prima facie showing that his claim satisfies § 2255(h) and warrants fuller exploration by the district court.” Blow v. United States, 829 F.3d 170, 172 (2d Cir. 2016).

Section § 924(c)(3)(B) is essentially identical to 18 U.S.C. § 16(b), which was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), largely based on the Supreme Court’s analysis in Johnson. The Supreme Court has held Johnson to be retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.


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Categories: 924(c), categorical approach, due process

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(Non-)Waiver and the Generic Definition of Manslaughter

Last week the Second Circuit issued an opinion holding that, under the residual clause of the pre-2016 Career Offender Guideline (COG), U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2), offenses under a subsection of New York’s first-degree manslaughter statute are crimes of violence. In so holding, the Circuit defined the generic definition of manslaughter to include “the unlawful killing of another human being recklessly.” United States v. Castillo, No. 16-4129 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Raggi, Vilardo (WDNY)) (appeal from Woods, J., SDNY), slip op. at 24. The Court further held, in conclusory fashion, that the government did not waive this argument when it conceded, pre-Beckles, that the residual clause of the pre-2016 COG was unconstitutionally vague. The opinion in Castillo, available here, may be of interest to practitioners dealing with the pre-2016 Guidelines, and is more generally worth noting for its loose language  concerning appellate waiver — language that …


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Categories: career offender, categorical approach, manslaughter, waiver

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