Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Court Can't Consult Statement from Related Case to Determine ACCA Applicability

US v. Harcum: Harcum pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing, the main issue was whether Harcum was an Armed Career Criminal, with particular focus on a prior Maryland conviction for second degree assault and whether it was a "crime of violence" under the ACCA.

Harcum was originally charged with assault in the District Court of Maryland in Baltimore City with a supporting Statement of Charges that alleged Harcum punched the victim in the face (sending said victim through a glass window). However, he was not convicted on that charge in that court. Instead, an information was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, alleging the same offense, on the same day, against the same victim as the District Court charge. However, unlike the District Court charge, the Circuit Court charge did not have an equivalent to the Statement of Charges laying out the offense conduct. Harcum pleaded guilty to second-degree assault based on the information in the Circuit Court.

The issue, both in the district court and in the Fourth Circuit, was whether the district court could look to the Statement of Charges filed in the District Court to determine whether the conviction sustained in the Circuit Court was a crime of violence (the Fourth has previously held that a conviction under the Maryland statute is not per se a crime of violence). The district court concluded that it could and, based on what it found there, concluded that Harcum's conviction was for a crime of violence and sentenced him as an Armed Career Criminal.

The Fourth Circuit disagreed and vacated Harcum's sentence, holding that nothing in the Circuit Court information incorporated the District Court Statement of Charges, either directly or implicitly.

Congrats to the defender office in Maryland on the win!

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