Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Consulting Maryland "Statement of Charges" Proper When Applying ACCA

US v. Simms: Simms pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Prior to sentencing, the Government served notice that it would seek an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (18 U.S.C. 924(e)), based on three prior convictions in Maryland. Two of those convictions were for battery and assault. Simms argued that those two convictions were not "violent felonies" as defined by the ACCA. The district court referred to the statement of charges contained in the charging papers and determined that they were violent felonies. The district court sentenced Simms to a 15-year term of imprisonment.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed. First, the court noted that assault and battery in Maryland are among those offenses that can be committed in so many different ways that their are neither violent felonies per se nor excluded from ACCA consideration. Second, the court held that the district court was correct in looking to the statement of charges to determine the underlying facts of the offenses. The court rejected Simms's argument that such reliance violated Sheppard v. US, 125 S.Ct. 1254 (2005), because the statement of charges was part of the charging document to which Simms pleaded guilty. Maryland law required such a statement as a factual basis for the plea. For that reason, the statement of charges in Maryland is different from the document as issue in Sheppard. Finally, the court held that it was clear that the facts set forth in the statement of charges supported the conclusion that Simms's battery and assault convictions were violent felonies.

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