Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Court OK's Assault Enhancement & Felony Enhancement Arising From Flight From Police

US v. Hampton: Hampton was a passenger in a car that was stopped for a broken taillight. During the stop, officers noticed that he was "exhibiting signs of nervousness." When the driver was arrested on an outstanding warrant, Hampton was ordered out of the car. He complied, but then pushed the officer closest to him and fled. He was captured, and, after a struggle, a pistol was found in his pants pocket. One of the officers was injured during the struggle. Hampton was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. After an unsuccessful motion to suppress, Hampton was convicted and sentenced to 300 months in prison.

On appeal, Hampton challenged the calculation of his advisory Guideline range on several grounds.* First, he argued that an enhancement under USSG 3A1.2(c)(1) for assault of a police officer during flight was not appropriate. Specifically, he argued that his conduct did not create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury, as required to trigger the enhancement. The Fourth Circuit disagreed, holding that Hampton assaulted a police officer during the struggle to subdue him and that assault resulted in serious bodily injury. Second, Hampton argued that his conduct did not constitute another felony offense, so as to trigger the enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6). The court disagreed, holding that because Hampton assaulted an officer during the struggle, he committed a felony under South Carolina law. Finally, Hampton argued that the application of both enhancements (for a total of 10 levels) was impermissible double counting. The Fourth Circuit disagreed, holding that there was nothing in the Guidelines to change the presumption that double counting is acceptable.

* Hampton also challenged the district court's denial of his motion to suppress, but conceded that his argument was precluded by Fourth Circuit precedent and was presented only to preserve it for further review.

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