Wednesday, September 6th, 2023

Selling cocaine in NY is not a “serious drug offense” under ACCA

Affirming Judge Koeltl, the Second Circuit has ruled in U.S. v. Minter that selling cocaine, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 220.39(1), is not a “serious drug offense” under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).

Why not?  Because “New York’s definition of cocaine is categorically broader than its federal counterpart.”  Slip Op. at 3.  Specifically, federal law “prohibits possession of only optical and geometric isomers of cocaine, while New York’s statute prohibits possession of all cocaine isomers.”  Slip Op. at 5 (emphasis in original).

The government argued Minter should have to pass the “realisitic probability” test by poining to a New York case in which the defendant was convicted for selling something other than an optical or geometric isomer of cocaine.  But the Court said no: “the New York statute applies on its face to all cocaine isomers; [federal law] does not.  ‘When the state law is facially overbroad, we look no further.'”  Slip Op. at 17 (citation omitted).

Congrats to Derek Cohen for saving Minter from a 15-year mandatory minimum!

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