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June 29, 2014

Yet more ACCA messiness out of Maryland

I noted in this post last week this lengthy Baltimore Sun article discussing how the multi-dimensional jurisprudential mess that is application of the Armed Career Criminal Act is messing with federal courts in Maryland.  Now this new Baltimore Sun article, headlined "Federal appeals court ruling could lead to more reduced sentences; Court rules that Maryland burglary convictions should not be used to increase sentences," reviews the latest chapter to rhis saga courtesy of the Fourth Circuit. Here are the basics:

A federal appeals court ruling could add to the number of inmates with legal grounds to seek reduced sentences because of a shifting interpretation of sentencing guidelines and what constitutes a violent crime. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated last week a 3.5-year sentence for Jose Herbert Henriquez, an El Salvadoran who pleaded guilty to illegally re-entering the United States. The lengthy sentence was based in part on a previous burglary conviction.

"A Maryland conviction of first-degree burglary cannot constitute a crime of violence," Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote for the majority, remanding the case to a lower court for Henriquez to be resentenced.

The finding follows a Supreme Court decision that gave judges new instructions on how to determine which state laws should count as violent. That finding and a subsequent appeals case has led to dozens of federal inmates from Maryland challenging their sentences, and Wynn's decision raises the possibility of further challenges.

Prosecutors say the technical rulings threaten to undermine efforts to impose long sentences and keep the public safe, but inmate advocates say prisoners who have been unjustly locked away for too long are finding hope in the string of court victories....

The federal sentencing guidelines call for longer sentences in unlawful re-entry cases for defendants previously convicted of a violent crime. Among those crimes, the guidelines include "burglary of a dwelling." Maryland's first-degree burglary law defines the crime as breaking into a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime of violence or a theft.

Wynn, joined by other 4th Circuit judges, found that Maryland law does not sufficiently define dwelling to ensure it's in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling that burglary only includes breaking into a building — and not, for example, a houseboat or an RV.

The Fourth Circuit ruling in US v. Henriquez, No. 13-4238 (4th Cir. June 27, 2014), is available here.

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June 29, 2014 at 09:45 PM | Permalink


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Ok, the high court said breaking into a building only; a house boat or doesnot count.
Then any auto with wheels shouldnot count as well.

Wouldnot be surprised if the 8th circuit lets winnebagos and such pass as a predicate. They seem to be villans. ie; gall case, look at how the appeal that the firm from NY easily ripped up the 8th circuit for increasing sentences, basically because effort was made with the appeal.

To say, how dare you challenge any federal courts decision.. They got slammed to the turf.

Im glad to see some work accomplished in the acca area. They could rescind the stackable 25 yr addons, from my view point. Its awfully gross, as well as 3 strikes for drugs. 3 strikes with drugs is a life sentence. These buggers get hooked and every move gets tallied up. Need to quit eliminating lives.

Posted by: Midwest Guy | Jul 1, 2014 2:51:27 AM

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