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August 17, 2011

En banc Fourth Circuit (by 8-5 vote) changes view on prior triggering enhanced drug mandatory minimum

The Fourth Circuit today handed down a big en banc sentencing decision in US v. Simmons, No. 08-4475 (4th Cir. Aug. 17, 2011) (available here). The majority opinion begins this way:

After Jason Simmons pled guilty to federal drug trafficking, the district court held that his prior state conviction for marijuana possession, for which he faced no possibility of imprisonment, was for an offense "punishable by imprisonment for more than one year," triggering a sentencing enhancement under the Controlled Substances Act.  This enhancement doubled Simmons’s minimum sentence. We affirmed in an unpublished opinion.  See United States v. Simmons, 340 F. App’x 141 (4th Cir. 2009).  The Supreme Court vacated that judgment and remanded the case to us for "further consideration in light of Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder," 130 S. Ct. 2577 (2010).  A panel of this court then held that Carachuri did not require any change in our prior holding.  See United States v. Simmons, 635 F.3d 140 (4th Cir. 2011).  We voted to rehear the case en banc, and for the reasons that follow, we now vacate Simmons’s sentence and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I am not sure how many defendant's sentences could be impacted by this Simmons ruling, but I am sure that it provides yet another example of how messy federal sentencing law is when it comes to the legal treatment/impact of prior state convictions.

August 17, 2011 at 06:08 PM | Permalink

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Posted by: Sports Betting Advice | Aug 19, 2011 9:28:01 AM

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