Archive | 924(c)

Monday, July 8th, 2019

The Supreme Court Vacates Barrett

The Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Barrett, 903 F.3d 166 ( 2d Cir. 2018), was vacated by the Supreme Court in a GVR order on June 28, 2019, in light of United States v. Davis, 588 U.S. __, 2019 WL 2649797. Davis held, contrary to Barrett, that the residual clause of 924(c)(3)(B) is void for vagueness. See Blog Post dated June 26, 2019.

In light of the Supreme Court’s order in Barrett, the government has acknowledged that Hobbs Act conspiracy no longer qualifies as a crime of violence under §924(c) because it does not qualify under the “force” or “elements” clause. So §924(c) convictions based on a Hobbs Act conspiracy as the predicate “crime of violence” are invalid. Unfortunately, the Second Circuit held that substantive Hobbs Act robbery  qualifies under the force clause, in United States v. Hill, 890 F.3d 51(2018)


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Categories: 924(c), crime of violence, Hobbs Act

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Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

The Supreme Court held in United States v. Davis that the so-called “residual clause” of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) is void for vagueness

The Supreme Court held in United States v. Davis that the so-called “residual clause” of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) is void for vagueness. This means that the only way a crime can qualify as a “crime of violence” for purposes of Section 924(c) is under the “elements” (or “force”) clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(A). That clause defines a “crime of violence” to mean “an offense that is a felony” and “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.”

So what happens now? Here’s a quick overview:

  1. Davis means that the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Barrett, 903 F.3d 166 (2d Cir. 2018), which upheld the constitutionality of the residual clause, is no longer good law. And more specifically, the Supreme Court is likely to grant the pending petition for certiorari in Barrett, vacate that
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Categories: 924(c), Hobbs Act, RICO

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Categories: 924(c), Hobbs Act, RICO

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Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Credit Union Robbery is a Crime of Violence for the Purposes of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)

Today, in United States v. Hendricks, the Second Circuit held that robbery of a credit union, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2113(a), is a “crime of violence” for the purposes of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The Circuit said it had “little difficulty in holding that bank robbery committed ‘by intimidation’ categorically constitutes a crime of violence for the purposes of [Section] 924(c)(1)(A).” Opinion at 15.

Stay tuned for a more detailed discussion of Henricks.…


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

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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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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 5th, 2018

§ 924(c)’s Residual Clause: The Circuit Split Deepens

Making Supreme Court review a virtual certainty, today the Eleventh Circuit joined the Second in holding that § 924(c)’s residual clause, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B), is not unconstitutionally vague. See United States v. Ovalles (11th Cir. Oct. 4, 2018) (en banc), opinion available here.

There is now a 3-2 circuit split. Three Circuits have held that § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional in light of Dimaya. See United States v. Davis, __ F.3d __, 2018 WL 4268432 (5th Cir. Sept. 7, 2018); United States v. Eshetu, 898 F.3d 36 (D.C. Cir. 2018); United States v. Salas, 889 F.3d 681 (10th Cir. 2018). Two Circuits have now upheld the residual clause. See Ovales, ___ F.3d ___, 2018 WL 4830079; United States v. Barrett, ___ F.3d ___, 2018 WL 4288566 (2d Cir. Sept. 10, 2018).…


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

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Inaccurate Barrett Dicta

(This post has been updated to discuss the amended opinion in Fiseku.)

The Second Circuit issued an opinion this week containing some facially incorrect, and substantively troubling, dicta concerning tits recent decision in Barrett. See United States v. Fiskeu, No. 17-1222 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Lynch, Carney) (appeal from Engelmayer, J., S.D.N.Y.), opinion available here.

The narrow, fact-specific holding of Fiseku is that under the “unusual circumstances” presented in the case, police officers did not act unreasonably when they briefly restrained the defendant in handcuffs while conducting a investigatory stop. Slip op. at 18. However, the defendant also raised an ineffective assistance claim because his defense attorney failed to argue that his crime of conviction, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, was not a crime of violence within the meaning of U.S.S.G. 4B1.2. The Second Circuit declined to address this claim on direct review.

In so …


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Categories: 924(c), conspiracy, crime of violence, Johnson

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Monday, September 10th, 2018

Second Circuit decides Barrett

On the heels of its Pereira-Gomez decision on Friday, the Second Circuit issued a new opinion in United States v. Barrett, which is available here.

In Barrett, the Circuit held that 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) is not unconstitutionally vague because “factfinding as to the violent nature of the predicate offense and the risk of physical force in its commission can be made by the trial jury in deciding the defendant’s guilt, thus avoiding both the Sixth Amendment and due process vagueness concerns at issue in Dimaya and Johnson.”  The Court held that the fact that Barrett’s jury did not make a finding regarding force was harmless error in light of the specific facts of his case.  The Circuit further held that a Hobbs Act Robbery conspiracy is a crime of violence because the object of the conspiracy, the Hobbs Act Robbery, is a crime of violence.  “[T]his …


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Categories: 924(c), conspiracy, crime of violence, Johnson

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Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Judge Kavanaugh on Criminal Law: Bad News Except…

Bloomberg News has an article (behind a paywall) that surveys Judge (and presumptive Justice) Kavanaugh’s criminal law jurisprudence.  The short story is that Judge Kavanaugh has been very bad for criminal defendants; one former SDNY prosecutor predicts that “he will be a reliable vote for the government in criminal cases, along the lines of Justice Alito.”

There are, however, a few glimmers of hope:

  • Concurring in an opinion reversing a murder conviction for faulty jury instructions, Judge Kavanaugh explained that, notwithstanding the defendant’s “heinous crime,” he was “unwilling to sweep under the rug” that the instructions left the jury with an incorrect understanding of the mens rea requirements governing second-degree murder and manslaughter. United States v. Williams, 836 F.3d 1, 20 (D.C. Cir. 2016).
  • In a concurring opinion affirming false statements conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, Judge Kavanaugh cautioned that “§ 1001 prosecutions can pose a risk of

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Categories: 924(c), acquitted conduct, false statements, jury instructions

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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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