Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Penalty at Time of Sentence Controls for ACCA
US v. McNeill: McNeill was convicted of being a felony in possession of a firearm and possession of crack with intent to distribute. As sentencing he was deemed an armed career criminal and given a sentence of 300 months in prison. On appeal, he argued that his prior North Carolina drug convictions were not "serious drug offense" as defined by the ACCA because the current statutory maximum penalty for those offenses was ten years in prison. At the time the sentences were imposed, the statutory maximum was 25 years. The Fourth Circuit concluded, based on the specific language of the North Carolina statutes at issue, that the "statutory maximum" that controlled for ACCA purposes was the one in effect at the time of the original sentence, not the current federal offense. In that case, the priors at issue, with maximum sentences of 25 years, qualified as serious drug offenses under the ACCA.