Archive | categorical approach

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Supreme Court reaffirms the categorical approach in ACCA cases

In Mathis v. United States, No. 15-6092, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the categorical approach to determining whether a prior conviction can give rise to the enhanced sentencing provisions of the ACCA.  If the elements of a state crime are broader than the elements listed in the generic offense, a conviction for the state crime cannot qualify as a predicate under the ACCA.  This remains true even if the defendant’s actual conduct fit within the definition of the generic offense.  In Mathis, the defendant’s prior conviction for burglary did not qualify as a prior violent offense under the ACCA because the Iowa burglary statute under which he was convicted — which listed “structures” and “vehicles” as alternative means for fulfilling one of the crime’s elements — was broader than generic burglary.  Even though his conduct had involved burglarizing a structure, that fact was “off-limits” to the sentencing judge.

Justice Kagan …


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Categories: ACCA, categorical approach

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Monday, October 8th, 2012

PC World

United States v. Reyes, No. 10-1400-cr (2d Cir. August 29, 2012) (Katzmann, Wesley, CJJ, Underhill, DJ) (per curiam)

Closing the question left open by United States v. Rosa, 507 F.3d 142, 156 (2d Cir. 2007), this per curiam opinion concludes that it was plain error for the district court to rely solely on the presentence report’s uncontested description of a prior offense in determining whether the defendant was a career offender, where the statute of conviction described some offenses that met the definition of crime of violence and some that did not. Even where the defendant does not contest the PSR’s factual description of the prior offense, the “modified categorical approach” still requires more. The PSR, after all, described only what the defendant did, not what he was convicted of. The circuit accordingly vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing to give the government the “opportunity to introduce evidence demonstrating …


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Categories: categorical approach, Uncategorized

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One Statute, Indivisible

United States v. Beardsley, No. 11-2206-cr (2d Cir. August 27, 2012) (Newman, Straub, Lynch, CJJ)

For purposes of recidivism enhancements, the statutes underlying prior convictions can be categorized into two distinct groups. “Divisible” statutes are those that identify distinct offenses, some of which would trigger the enhancement and some would not.  “Indivisible” statutes, by contrast, identify a single offense but are worded so broadly as to encompass conduct that might or might not fall within the relevant definition.  This important decision holds that for “indivisible” statutes, the traditional “categorical approach” is the only available means of determining whether the enhancement applies. The more expansive “modified categorical approach” can only be used with divisible statutes, in an effort to ascertain which of the possible predicate offenses the defendant was convicted of.

Here, the particular enhancement was that in a child pornography statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A. For offenses involving the …


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Categories: categorical approach, Uncategorized

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Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Savage Love

United States v. Savage, No. 06-4097-cr (2d Cir. September 18, 2008) (Pooler, Livingston, CJJ, Kaplan, DJ)

Lavon Savage pled guilty to possessing a gun. At issue was whether his offense level should be enhanced for a prior “controlled substance offense,” based on his conviction under Connecticut General Statute § 21a-277(b), which makes it a crime to, inter alia, sell a controlled substance. Connecticut defines the “sale” of a controlled substance as “any form of delivery, which includes barer, exchange or gift, or offer therefore.” This definition is broader than the guideline definition of “controlled substance offense,” which does not include offenses involving the mere offer of a controlled substance.

The circuit concluded that Savage should not have received the enhancement. It agreed that the Connecticut statute criminalizes conduct – an offer to furnish drugs – that falls outside the guideline definition of “controlled substance offense.” Moreover, under the limitations of …


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Categories: alford plea, categorical approach, Uncategorized

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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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Categories: ACCA, categorical approach, Shepard, Uncategorized, Y.O., youthful offender adjudication

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