United States v. Leon Carter (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Federal Docket

August 12, 2021

ACCA/Violent Felony – A prior conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is not a prior conviction for a “violent felony” under the ACCA because the crime can be accomplished with a mens rea of recklessness.

Leon Carter was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 15 years for possession of a firearm pursuant to the enhanced penalties under the Armed Career Criminal Act. One of his three predicate prior convictions was a conviction in Georgia for assault with a deadly weapon under O.C.G.A. 16-5-21(a)(2).

On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit, citing the recent Supreme Court opinion in Borden v. United States, reversed and held that an aggravated assault under Georgia law is not a “violent felony” under the ACCA. The Court reasoned that the ACCA’s element clause does not include convictions for offenses that require only reckless conduct–“it covers only offenses that require a mens rea of knowledge or intent.” The Court also cited its prior holding in United States v. Moss, where the Court reinstated its prior holding that aggravated assault under Georgia law is not a “violent felony” under the ACCA. However, the opinion appears limited to aggravated assault when the crime is based on a simple assault under OCGA 16-5-20(a)(2) which criminalizes placing another in “reasonable apprehension of immediate violent injury.”

On appeal from the Southern District of Georgia
Opinion by Marcus, joined by Black and Restani (by designation from U.S. Court of International Trade)

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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