Eleventh Circuit

The Federal Docket

King v. United States (11th Cir. July 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of a defendant’s motion under 28 USC 2255. The Court held that the defendant’s motion was properly waived based on his plea agreement, notwithstanding changes in the law that undermined his conviction under 924(c), holding that the waiver exception for sentences over the statutory maximum is based on the maximum “in effect at the time of sentencing,” and not the maximum based on subsequent new laws.

Hesser v. United States (11th Cir. July 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s partial denial of a defendant’s motion to vacate under 2255 and vacated the defendant’s convictions for tax fraud and tax evasion. The Court held that the defendant’s counsel was ineffective for failing to move for a judgment of acquittal where the Government’s evidence showed that the defendant hid gold bullion, no evidence that it was his gold.

United States v. Lewis (11th Cir. July 2022)

Alfonzo Lewis was convicted of drug offenses and challenged his arrest, jury selection, and other aspects of his trial on appeal. Lewis had initially been investigated by a federal drug task force that included state and local agents. After agents witnessed him leaving a house after a drug transaction, local law enforcement conducted a traffic …

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United States v. Cohen (July 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit held that a driver of a rental vehicle has standing to challenge a traffic stop and inventory search even if they were driving with a suspended license and they are not an authorized driver on the rental agreement.

United States v. Jackson (11th Cir. June 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence that had been enhanced under the ACCA after the district court held that the defendant’s prior conviction was a “serious drug offense.” However, the statute under which the defendant was previously convicted under state law also prohibited ioflupane, which was not a controlled substance at the time of the defendant’s federal prosecution. Citing fair notice and due process concerns, the Court concluded that sentencing courts must “apply the version of the Controlled Substance Act Schedules in place when the defendant committed the federal firearm-possession offense for which he is being sentenced,” as opposed to the schedules in effect when the defendant is convicted of his predicate state offenses.

United States v. Stines (11th Cir. May 2022)

In a matter of first impression, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s sentence for illegally exporting firearms. The Court concluded that the lower offense level under USSG 2M5.2(a)(2) did not apply since the defendant’s offense involved more than 2 firearms, where the defendant had exported enough firearm parts to assemble two guns and enough spare parts to service additional firearms.

United States v. Jimenez-Shilon (11th Cir. May 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit rejected a defendant’s constitutional challenge to his conviction for possession of a firearm by an unlawful alien. The Court held that the Second Amendment did not provide a right for illegal aliens to possess firearms since that right did not exist at the time of the amendment’s ratification.

United States v. Gardner (11th Cir. May 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence. While the defendant’s three prior convictions under Alabama law were punishable by less than ten years under Alabama’s sentencing guidelines, the Court relied on the statutory maximum of over 10 years for those convictions in holding that they were “serious drug offenses” under the ACCA.

Fuad Said v. Attorney General (11th Cir. March 2022)

In an immigration appeal that likely affects federal criminal cases, the Eleventh Circuit held that a petitioner’s prior state law conviction for possession of marijuana did not constitute an offense involving a “controlled substance” as defined under federal law. The Court noted that the definition of marijuana under federal law, while still classifying marijuana as a controlled substance, excludes cannabis that falls under the definition of “hemp.” The petitioner’s conviction was under a Florida law that did not make that distinction and thus would ostensibly allow for a conviction based on possession of hemp. Accordingly, the petitioner’s prior offense was not a categorical match with the federal definition of a controlled substance offense.

Seabrooks v. United States (11th Cir. May 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of a defendant’s motion to vacate their sentence under 28 USC 2255. The Court held that the district court erred in instructing the jury on aiding and abetting in an unlawful possession of a firearm case where the government did not present any evidence that the defendant knew his co-defendant was prohibited from possessing firearms. The Court also held that Rehaif is retroactive to cases on collateral review and discussed the standard for procedural default under 2255 at length.

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