Archive | categorical approach

Wednesday, May 8th, 2024

A district court may not base its sentence on a disagreement with the categorical approach.

In United States v. Marcus Odom, No. 23-6105 (2d Cir. May 8, 2024) (summary order), the Second Circuit upheld the defendant’s challenged prison sentence, while also opining that a sentencing court may not increase a prison sentence based on its disagreement with the so-called “categorical” approach.

Odom’s case was before the district court for resentencing as a result of United States v. Taylor, 596 U.S. 845 (2022). Taylor held that attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a “crime of violence” for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), applying the well-established “categorical” approach. Odom had originally pled guilty to attempted Hobbs Act robbery and a violation of § 924(c) but, following Taylor, his § 924(c) conviction was vacated. He was resentenced on the attempted Hobbs Act robbery alone.

Some judges have complained about the categorical approach and Odom’s district judge is apparently among them. At the …

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Categories: categorical approach, sentencing

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Friday, January 8th, 2021

Second Circuit rejects application of the categorical approach for determining an “offense against property” under the MVRA.

In United States v. Razzouk, No. 18-1395 (2d Cir. Jan. 4, 2021), the Second Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Carney, joined by Judge Walker and District Judge Koeltl, held that in determining whether a conviction is for an “offense against property,” such that restitution is required under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (“MVRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(c)(1)(A)(ii), a court may consider the facts and circumstances of the specific crime committed—not just the generic elements of the offense. The appellant had argued that his bribery conviction, which was based on a statute that does not refer to “property” or necessarily implicate its involvement, should not be subject to mandatory restitution. The Circuit rejected this, finding that an analysis based on the categorical approach was unwarranted and concluding that the facts of his case supported that it was an “offense against property.”

Defendant-appellant Sassine Razzouk pleaded guilty to one count …

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Categories: bribery, categorical approach, MVRA, restitution

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Friday, June 5th, 2020

The “realistic probability” test has no role to play in the “categorical approach” when a state statute on its face is broader than the federal definition.

Here’s an important decision you may have missed because it arises in the context of an immigration proceeding rather than a criminal case. In Williams v. Barr, No. 18-2535 (2d Cir. May 27, 2020) (Jacobs, Carney, and Bianco), the Circuit clarified that, under the “categorical approach” for determining whether a state statute criminalizes more conduct than the relevant federal counterpart, the “realistic probability” test has limited application. Specifically, the test does not apply when the text of the statute itself gives it a broader reach than the generic federal definition. And, because the “categorical approach” applies in both immigration cases and criminal cases, this holding should be helpful to many criminal defendants.

Williams fought removal from the United States based on his Connecticut state conviction for unlawful carrying of a pistol or revolver. The Second Circuit agreed with him that, under the “categorical approach,” the state statute criminalized more …

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Categories: categorical approach, firearms

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Friday, January 17th, 2020

Circuit Holds That New York Offense of Possession of a Sexual Performance By a Child (N.Y. Penal Law §263.16) Categorically Matches 18 U.S.C §2252(a)(4)(B) and Is an Aggravated Felony Under the INA.

In Quito v. Barr, __ F.3d __ 2020 WL 218590 (2d Cir. Jan. 15, 2020) (Wesley, Livingston, Bianco),  the Second Circuit held that attempted possession of a sexual performance by a child under N.Y. Penal Law §263.16 is an aggravated felony under the INA because it categorically fits the definition of the federal offense of possessing child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B), an enumerated aggravated felony. The Court rejected petitioner’s arguments that the New York statute sweeps more broadly because it does not require knowledge of the minor’s specific age and does not include the affirmative defense to §2252(a)(4)(B) for someone who possessed fewer than three images and promptly destroyed them or turned them over.

The Court ruled, as a threshold matter, that it was not bound by its previous holding in Weiland v. Lynch, 835 F.3d 207 (2d Cir. 2016),  that  a “nearly identical” New York …

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Categories: aggravated felony, categorical approach, child pornography

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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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