The Federal Docket is a monthly newsletter providing lawyers and the community a summary of recent important decisions in the area of federal criminal law from the United States Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeal. The opinions are compiled, summarized and analyzed by Tom Church, an attorney in our firm’s federal criminal defense practice.
The Supreme Court struck down the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), which criminalizes carrying a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence” or drug trafficking crime, as unconstitutionally vague. The decision was based on prior Supreme Court decisions striking down similar provisions defining "crimes of violence" under 18 U.S.C. § 16 and the ACCA.
The Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 922, which criminalizes possession of a firearm by certain groups of individuals (such as felons), has an intent element requiring that the defendant had knowledge of both his possession of a firearm and of his status in a class of individuals prohibited from possessing firearms.
The Supreme Court unanimously held that the defendant’s 2002 Michigan conviction for third-degree home invasion was a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act’s enumerated-offenses clause, as the Michigan offense “substantially corresponded to” or was narrower than generic burglary under the categorical approach from Taylor v. United States.
Among other rulings on other issues, the Court reversed the defendant's conviction for bankruptcy fraud, holding that the income from his second religious temple, opened after the first temple filed a petition for bankruptcy and providing the same services as the first temple, did not constitute post-petition property of the first temple's estate since the temples otherwise operated as two separate entities and the government did not try to pierce the corporate veil.
The Court affirmed the defendant's convictions for enticing a minor under § 2422(b) but reversed his conviction under § 373 for solicitation to commit a crime of violence, holding that kidnapping under § 1201(a) is not a "crime of violence" under the categorical approach applicable to § 373. The Court also held that the defendant's right to a complete defense was not violated by the trial court's proper rulings on the inadmissibility of the defense experts' testimony.
The Court affirmed the defendant's convictions for wire fraud, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting proposed jury instructions that distinguished a "scheme to defraud" from a "scheme to deceive," since the proposed instructions did not also include language defining an intent to harm based on a misrepresentation of the nature of the bargain.