Career Offender

The Federal Docket

United States v. Scott (3rd Cir. September 2021)

Joining the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits, the Third Circuit held that a conviction for Hobbs Act robbery is not a prior conviction for a “crime of violence” under the “Career Offender” provisions of the Guidelines.

United States v. Abdulaziz (1st Cir. June 2021)

The First Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence which had been enhanced based on a 2014 conviction under state law for distributing marijuana, which the sentencing court held was a “controlled substance offense” under the Guidelines. The First Circuit held that convictions under state laws that do not distinguish between marijuana and hemp, as defined and legalized under federal law, cannot serve as “controlled substance offenses” under the Guidelines.

United States v. Tony Dewayne Williams (6th Cir. March 2021)

The Sixth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s sentence which was enhanced based on a prior felony conviction under Tennessee law involving marijuana. The Court held that the sentencing court erred in enhancing the defendant’s sentence based on that conviction because the Tennessee law at issue included hemp under the definition of marijuana, while hemp was distinguishable and legal under federal law. Therefore, the Tennessee conviction was not a “controlled substance offense” under the Guidelines. However, since the defendant had only objected generally at sentencing and did not articulate grounds for his objection, plain error review applied, and the sentencing court’s error here were not clear or obvious given the complexity of the issue.

United States v. Simha Furaha (9th Cir. March 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s sentence after the defendant challenged the district court’s application of an enhancement based on the defendant’s prior conviction under 924(c), which the sentencing court considered a “controlled substance offense” warranting an enhancement. The Court held that a sentencing court may apply the modified categorical approach to determine whether a defendant’s underlying “drug trafficking crime” under 924(c) was a “controlled substance offense” under 4B1.2.

Jeffery Bridges v. United States (March 7th Cir. 2021)

The Seventh Circuit remanded a defendant’s 2255 motion for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the defendant had made a sufficient showing that he may have received ineffective assistance of counsel based on his lawyer’s failure to argue that his Hobbs Act robbery was not a crime of violence under the career offender provision of the sentencing guidelines. While the Seventh Circuit had not yet decided whether Hobbs Act robbery was a crime of violence at the time of the defendant’s sentencing, other circuits had, the categorical approach under the Guidelines was well-known, and this was enough to warrant at least a hearing to determine whether the defendant’s counsel failed to reasonably investigate the issue before the defendant’s sentencing.

United States v. Gerald Scott (2d Cir. March 2021, EN BANC)

Sitting en banc, the Second Circuit held that first degree manslaughter under New York law is categorically a “crime of violence” under the ACCA and the Career Offender provision of the Guidelines. Despite the fact that the offense can be committed through omission or inaction, as opposed to only through act of force or threat of force, the Court concluded it fit the bill under the force clauses of the ACCA because it required a victim’s death and a defendant’s intent to cause at least serious bodily injury.

United States v. Malik Nasir (3rd Cir. December 2020), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Third Circuit held that inchoate offenses are not included in the definition of “controlled substance offenses” under the career offender guidelines because commentary to the Guidelines is not binding when it is inconsistent with or broader than the text of the Guidelines. The Court also held that a court reviewing a defendant’s Rehaif challenge under plain error review is limited to considering the record presented at trial, not the whole record, and a new trial is warranted where there is no evidence presented to a jury regarding the defendant’s knowledge of his prior felony.

United States v. Michael Vickers (5th Cir. July 2020)

The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court that vacated a defendant’s sentence under the ACCA and Career Offender enhancement, holding that the defendant’s prior state murder conviction under Texas law qualified as a violent felony under the ACCA despite the prior statute not distinguishing between direct and indirect force.

Gregory Welch v. United States (11th Cir. May 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, holding that his prior Florida convictions for strong-arm robbery and felony battery were “violent felonies” under the ACCA’s elements clause.

United States v. Marlon Eason, et al. (11th Cir. March 2020)

Joining several other circuits, the Eleventh Circuit held that a conviction for Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a “crime of violence” for the sentencing enhancement under either the elements clause of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a) or as an enumerated robbery or extortion offense, as a defendant can be convicted of Hobbs Act robbery based merely on a threat to property.

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