Friday, April 07, 2017

With or without the ACCA, violent felon sentence affirmed

US v. McDonald:  In this appeal, the Fourth Circuit heard a challenge to the district court’s application of the ACCA to the defendant’s sentence when the defendant asserts that the qualifying predicate offenses are not all crimes of violence.  The district court had noted at sentencing that with or without the ACCA, it would have ordered the same 188-month sentence for the defendant.

Here, the Fourth Circuit analyzed the case using the “assumed error harmlessness inquiry,” wherein it required 1) the knowledge that the district court would have reached the same result even it had decided the guidelines issue the other way, and 2) the determination that the sentence would be reasonable even it the guidelines issue had been decided in the defendant’s favor.   Here, the Fourth Circuit assumed that the district court had erred in its sentencing, and proceeded to examine whether the assumed error affected the sentence.  It concluded that the district court would have imposed the same sentence absent the application of an ACCA enhancement, so the Fourth Circuit affirmed the sentence here, without clarifying whether South Carolina second-degree burglary still falls within the ACCA’s list of predicate offenses.

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