Firearm Offenses

The Federal Docket

United States v. Espinoza-Roque (1st Cir. February 2022)

The First Circuit vacated a defendant’s 46-month sentence for various firearm offenses, holding that the district court erred in finding that the defendant was an “unlawful drug user” at the time of his offense. The enhancement was based on the defendant’s statement to probation, during the drafting of his PSR, that he smoked marijuana daily in the years leading up to his arrest. The Court held that this statement failed to establish the temporal nexus for the defendant’s drug use and his possession of a firearm, especially since the defendant had also told probation that he sometimes went “weeks” without smoking marijuana, and thus the district court clearly erred in relying on it for the enhancement.

United States v. Grant (6th Cir. October 2021)

The Sixth Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence. The defendant had received two sentences for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and by a domestic violence misdemeanant. The Court held that these two convicted should have been merged for sentencing since they were based on one act of possession.

Cartwright v. United States (6th Cir. August 2021)

The Sixth Circuit reversed a district court’s denial of a habeas petition asserting that the defendant was no longer an armed career criminal under Johnson v. US. A conviction for burglary under Tennessee law is not categorically a crime of violence where a defendant can commit the crime after entering a dwelling or building lawfully.

United States v. Angel Carrasquillo-Sanchez (1st Cir. August 2021)

The First Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence for possession of a firearm by an unlawful drug user. The Court held that the district court committed plain error where it varied upwards from the defendant’s Guidelines range based on the fact that the defendant possessed a machine gun and its concerns with violent crimes in Puerto Rico. The Court held that the type of firearm possessed was already covered by the Guidelines, and thus could not be the basis for an upwards variance, and the district court failed to tie its concerns with crime in Puerto Rico to this specific defendant’s conduct.

United States v. Carlos Garcia-Perez (1st Cir. August 2021)

The First Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence for possession of a machine gun. Reviewing for procedural reasonableness, the Court held that the district court failed to adequately explain its basis for its 12-month upwards variance and that the only reason cited by the court, the fact that the machine gun was dangerous, was already covered by the Guidelines and thus an improper basis for the variance.

United States v. Antonio Simmons (4th Cir. August 2021)

The Fourth Circuit reversed convictions for several defendants convicted of RICO, VICAR, and carrying a firearm during crimes of violence. In a complex opinion, the Court held that RICO conspiracy is a divisible offense requiring the modified categorical approach to determine if the offense is a crime of violence. The Court concluded that a RICO conspiracy, even an “aggravated” one, is not a crime of violence under 924(c). The Court also reversed the defendants’ VICAR convictions where the jury instructions referred to the wrong state law. Finally, the Court reversed one of the VICAR and 924(c) counts predicated on attempted murder where the defendants only took a preparatory act, not an overt act, in driving around looking for the victim.

United States v. Melvyn Gear (9th Cir. August 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm by a nonimmigrant visa holder. The Court held that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant knew his visa possessed the characteristics of a non-immigrant visa where it explicitly authorized a temporary stay for work purposes.

United States v. James Bartley (9th Cir. August 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction under 18 USC 922(g)(4) for possession of a firearm by a person previously committed to a mental institution. The Court held that the defendant’s conviction did not require evidence that his prior commitment was based on a finding that he was dangerous, and the Court rejected his constitutional challenge to 922(g)(4) after applying intermediate scrutiny and holding that his Second Amendment rights were not impermissibly restricted.

United States v. Joshua Dudley (11th Cir. July 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. The defendant had previously pleaded guilty to several different felony offenses on the same day, but there was no indication in the indictment when these offenses occurred or whether they were related, save for the State’s statements during the colloquy regarding a factual basis. The Eleventh Circuit held that the sentencing court here properly relied on those statements because the defendant had implicitly confirmed the substance of those statements by failing to object or add facts.

United States v. Roosevelt Coats, III (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The Court held that it was plain error for the district court to accept the defendant’s guilty plea where the defendant was not advised that the Government would have to prove his knowledge of his felon status, but the defendant was not prejudiced where the record showed the Government would have been able to prove his knowledge at trial. The Court also held that a prior conviction for burglary under Georgia law is a predicate “violent felony” under the ACCA, and it held that the district court properly applied the obstruction enhancement and denied the defendant acceptance of responsibility credit based on the defendant’s pre-indictment conduct.

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