Monday, July 15, 2019

NC Robbery Is “Violent Felony” Under ACCA Force Clause

US v. Dinkins: Dinkins pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2009 and was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act to 252 months in prison. After the Supreme Court decided Johnson in 2015, Dinkins filed a 2255 motion arguing that two of his prior convictions, for robbery and accessory before the fact of armed robbery in North Carolina, no longer qualified as ACCA predicates. The district court dismissed the motion on procedural grounds.

The Fourth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability and, after addressing Dinkins’s substantive arguments, affirmed the denial of his 2255 motion. Dinkins’s argument was that robbery and armed robbery (to which he was an accessory) in North Carolina do not require the kind of “violent force” it takes to be an ACCA predicate. That was based primarily on the Fourth Circuit’s 2016 decision in Gardner, but the court concluded that the Supreme Court’s intervening decision in Stokeling effectively overruled Gardner. Taking from Stokeling that the primary issue with robbery is whether it requires the defendant physically overcome the victim’s resistance, however slight, the court held that North Carolina robbery (and armed robbery) does require that as an element. Indeed, the court held that “North Carolina’s definition of common law robbery is materially indistinguishable from the Florida robbery statute that the Court in Stokeling held was a violent felony.” The same conclusion applied to Dinkins’s prior conviction for accessory before the fact to armed robbery because “the elements of the substantive crime are incorporated into the North Carolina crime of being an accessory before the fact.” That distinguishes the offense from conspiracy, which does not require a completed substantive offense.

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