Q: What could be worse,
than accidentally shooting oneself with a revolver?
A: Getting fifteen years in
custody, once you’re released from the hospital.
United States v. Prince, 2014 WL
6610329, (9th Cir. Nov. 24, 2014), decision available here.
Decision by Judge Christen, joined by Judges Gould and Wardlaw. Hard-fought
appeal by AFD Matthew Campbell, Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington &
Facts: Convicted of 18 USC § 922(g)(1), Prince was
sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act to fifteen years of custody. Id. at *1. (He was arrested after
accidentally shooting himself. Id.).
He did not object at sentencing. Id.
Prince appealed his sentence.
Issue(s): “Prince challenges the district court’s conclusion
that his prior California attempted robbery conviction was a ‘violent felony’
under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). See
18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) – (2)(B).” Id.
Held: “The district
court did not err by ruling that attempt to commit robbery under California
Penal Code § 211 qualifies as a ‘violent felony’ for purposes of the ACCA
because attempted robbery presents a serious potential risk of physical injury
to another, and because it is roughly similar, in kind as well as in degree of
risk posed, to burglary and extortion, both of which are listed as violent
felonies under the ACCA.” Id. “Applying
[the two-step framework from United
States v. Chandler, 743 F.3d 648, 650 (9th Cir. 2014)], we conclude that
attempted robbery under California Penal Code § 211 qualifies as a violent
felony under the ACCA’s residual clause.”
Id. at *2 (emphasis added).
Of Note: Judge Christen starts with the Chandler decision, that had held that the Nevada crime of
conspiracy to commit robbery qualified as a “violent felony” for Career
Offender because it was similar to extortion and burglary. Id. at *3-*4. The California statute, she concedes, allows a
robbery without directly taking from a person. Id. at *4. It is close enough, though, because the non-traditional
robbery aspects of a California robbery meet the definition of generic
extortion (obtaining something from another induced by the wrongful use of fear
or threats). By comparing the California attempted robbery statute into two
generic crimes – robbery, and extortion – the Court concludes there are
analogous-enough risks to satisfy the residual clause. Id. at *5.
How to Use:
It is not good, but it is good to know: bad for Career Offender often is bad
for ACCA. In Prince, the Court looked
to its earlier Chandler decision and
its analysis of “conspiracy to commit robbery,” for the analytical structure on
this ACCA question. A Career Offender “crime of violence” refers to a guideline
definition, USSG §
ACCA “violent felony” refers to a statutory
definition in 18 USC § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii).
The two definitions are close enough for the Court in Prince, which uses the guideline definition to guide its analysis
on this statutory definition question. Id.
at *2 & n.2. Tricky business, this. The take-away is to check Career
Offender authority before breathing a sigh of relief when a potential ACCA prior
has yet to be tagged as a “violent felony” predicate.
Reading: Fifteen year mandatory minimum
sentence, for a guy who was arrested after accidentally shooting himself? The mandatory-minimum provision
of the ACCA is too harsh, and the definitions of crime of violence too vague
and confusing, for just sentencing.
Don’t you wish the Sentencing Commission would
take a hard look at mandatory minimum sentences, and recommended statutory
changes to Congress to deal with the mess of “crimes of violence” definitions
and predicate convictions in general? Wish granted: mand mins and prior convictions
are two of the Commissions’ priorities for the 2014-15 Amendment Cycle. See Final Priorities for Amendment Cycle, available
Steven Kalar, Federal Public Defender Northern District of
California. Website at www.ndcalfpd.org
Labels: 18 USC 924, ACCA, Career Offender, Christen