US v. Simmons: Simmons was on supervised release when he was involved in a high-speed chase with police during which he sideswiped a state trooper. The district court, upon revoking Simmons’ term of supervised release, concluded that he had committed a Grade A violation because Simmons had committed the NC offense of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official (“AWDGOGO”), which qualified as a “crime of violence.” The district court then sentenced Simmons to 36 months in prison, the top of the resulting advisory Guideline range.
On appeal the Fourth Circuit vacated the sentence, concluding that AWDGOGO was not a crime of violence. Analyzed both under the enumerated offense clause (as “aggravated assault”) and the force clause, the problem was the same – AWDGOGO requires only a mens rea of “culpable negligence,” which is less than the recklessness required by the Guidelines. In doing so, the court restricted itself to the “least culpable conduct under the North Carolina statute,” rejecting the Government’s argument that it should look to the “ordinary or typical case.” The error of classifying AWDGOGO as a crime of violence was plain, impacted Simmons’ substantial rights, and required vacation of his sentence.