Friday, December 1st, 2006

Civil Rights Violation Qualifies as “Crime of Violence” for Purposes of § 924(c)

United States v. Acosta, Docket No. 05-3346-cr (L) (2d Cir. Nov. 30, 2006) (Jacobs, Parker, Oberdorfer) (per curiam): This short opinion holds that convictions under (1) the second clause of 18 U.S.C. § 242 (violating someone’s civil rights when either “bodily injury results” or involved “the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon”) and (2)18 U.S.C. § 241 (conspiring “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimate” a person exercising his/her civil rights) both qualify as a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (mandating additional consecutive sentence when a firearm was possessed / used / brandished “during and in relation to any crime of violence . . . for which the person may be prosecuted in a court of the United States”), which defines a “crime of violence” as a felony that either “(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (B) that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense,” 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3).

The Court’s conclusion is not particularly surprising, though one may question its reading of § 241. The opinion is nonetheless useful as a reminder that in determining whether an offense qualifies as a “crime of violence,” a court must take a “categorical approach” that “focus[es] on the intrinsic nature of the offense rather than on the circumstances of the particular crime.” Op. 4. Thus, in deciding whether Offense X constitutes a “crime of violence,” “only the minimal criminal conduct necessary for conviction under [] statute [X] is relevant.” Id. (emphasis added).

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