Career Offender

The Federal Docket

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.

Shular v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held a defendant’s prior conviction under state law qualifies as a “serious drug offense” under the ACCA if the defendant’s conduct involves “manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance” as spelled out under the statute. In doing so, the Court rejected a categorical approach that would require courts to match the defendant’s state offenses to a “generic offense.”

United States v. Tyrone Mitchell (3rd Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that the sentencing court committed plain and reversible error when it relied on the defendant’s “bare arrest record” in determining a sentence, as the sentencing court had only cited the Defendant’s “extensive criminal history” without adequately distinguishing between adjudications, convictions, and mere arrests. 

United States v. Martin Johnson (4th Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that a district court does not plainly err by failing to give a limiting instruction when admitting 404(b) evidence in the absence of a defendant’s request for such an instruction. Additionally, the Court held that robbery possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute under Maryland law are predicate “violent felonies” under the ACCA.

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