Wednesday, November 01, 2017

WV Aggravated Robbery Requires Use of Force

US v. Salmons: Salmons was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. In the PSR, his offense level was enhanced because he had a prior conviction for a "crime of violence" - West Virginia aggravated robbery. Salmons objected, back in the pre-Beckles days, that his prior didn't involve the use of force and therefore couldn't be a crime of violence. The district court disagreed and denied the objection, calculating Salmons's Guideline range to be 30 to 37 months. The district court imposed a sentence of 12 months and 1 day.

Salmons appealed his sentence, which the Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court held that "aggravated" robbery - which requires strangulation, suffocation, striking, beating, or other violence to the person, or the threat or presentment of firearms or "other deadly weapon or instrumentality whatsoever" qualified as a crime of violence under the force clause. "These are brutal acts," the court concluded. The court found no distinction between this prior and SC strong-arm robbery and federal bank robbery, all of which require "violent force" as defined by the Supreme Court. The court noted that West Virginia distinguishes between regular and aggravated robberies "to expressly delineate the more violent forms of the offense." Furthermore, Salmons couldn't point to any WV case suggesting the offense could be committed by something other than the use of force.

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