Friday, February 09, 2018

Sixth Circuit holds that North Carolina robbery is a crime of violence under the residual clause of the guidelines

In United States v. Smith, the Sixth Circuit returned to its earlier holding that North Carolina robbery qualifies as crime of violence under the sentencing guidelines’ residual clause.  In 2014, the Sixth Circuit had decided this very issue in Mr. Smith’s case, holding that North Carolina robbery was a crime of violence under the residual clause.  However, in light of Johnson, the Supreme Court vacated that decision and remanded the case. 

After the Sixth Circuit ruled that the guidelines’ residual clause was void for vagueness, it remanded Mr. Smith’s case to the district court.  The district court then ruled that the robbery was a crime of violence under both the elements clause and the enumerated offenses clause.  While Mr. Smith’s appeal was pending, the Supreme Court decided Beckles, holding that the guidelines’ residual clause was—in fact—valid. 

Accordingly, when Mr. Smith’s case arrived before the Sixth Circuit again, the court decided to rely on its prior holding.  The court noted case law from the Fourth Circuit holding that North Carolina robbery is not a violent felony under the ACCA’s element clause, as well as a Fourth Circuit opinion holding that North Carolina robbery is a crime of violence under the guidelines’ enumerated offenses clause.  However, instead of analyzing the crime under either of these clauses, the court readopted its prior holding that North Carolina robbery is a crime of violence under the residual clause.  Since the career offender guideline no longer includes the residual clause, the question of whether North Carolina robbery qualifies as a crime of violence under the current guidelines will have to wait for another day.

Opinion available here.

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