Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Michigan breaking and entering is not "burglary" under the ACCA

Great win for AFPD Paul Nelson out of the Western District of Michigan!!

United States v. Ritchey, 15-2460

The Court has held that Michigan's breaking and entering statute, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110, is broader than the generic definition of burglary.  Further, because it had a broader definition of "building", which included means of committing the offense, it could never qualify as an enumerated burglary offense.  Thus, Ritchey's 180 month sentence was unconstitutional.

Also important was the Court's ruling that Ritchey did not waive his claims.  The Government on appeal argued that because Ritchey agreed, at his plea hearing, that his priors qualified under the ACCA, he had waived the argument for appeal.  But the Court found "regardless of whether he
conceded this point, Ritchey could not have waived or intentionally relinquished an argument
based on Mathis because the case was decided after his sentencing."

Monday, October 03, 2016

Mitigating-role amendment is retroactive

Today's decision in United States v. Carter recognizes the perhaps obvious fact that Amendment 794 applies retroactively because it is a "clarifying" as opposed to "substantive" amendment. Amendment 794 amends the commentary to U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2, the guideline that allows judges to reduce a defendant's base offense level if the defendant had a lesser role in his or her offense. The amendment requires judges to consider certain new factors regarding the individual's role. Such "commentary-only" amendments are almost always interpreted as "clarifying" and thus retroactive, and so it was here. The defendant had been sentenced before the amendment went into effect. However, because the defendant's sentence was not yet final, and because the court had not considered the factors added by Amendment 794, the Sixth Circuit remanded for resentencing.

The unsurprising holding regarding retroactivity in Carter is most relevant for what it does not stand for. Prison gossip has led many to believe that Amendment 794 would provide an avenue for early release from prison along the lines of Amendment 782 or the various "crack amendments." In fact, the retroactivity of this amendment will likely affect only those individuals whose sentences are not yet final. 

In any event, a good result in this case and for other defendants who may benefit.