Beckles v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: June 27, 2016
  • Case #: 15-8544
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether Johnson: (1) applies retroactively to collateral cases challenging federal sentences enhanced under the residual clause in U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2), (2) renders the Guidelines’s residual clause void for vagueness, and (3) makes a federal sentence enhanced for mere possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that offense is listed as a crime of violence in the Guidelines commentary?

Petitioner, a felon, was arrested and later convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Guidelines commentary lists possession of a sawed-off shotgun as a “crime of violence.” As a result, Petitioner qualified as a career offender subject to enhanced sentencing guidelines. Petitioner appealed arguing that possession of that weapon did not qualify him as a career offender subject to enhanced sentencing. The court rejected that argument and Petitioner’s writ was denied. Petitioner then filed a motion to vacate the sentence, which was initially denied, but later allowed by a district court because of the government’s failure to contest Petitioner’s argument. While Petitioner awaited resentencing, the Eleventh Circuit decided United States v. Hall, which determined that the possession did qualify and was binding under Stinson v. United States. Subsequently, the district court denied Petitioner’s motion. The Court then decided Johnson, granted Petitioner’s second writ, vacated and remanded the case. Before reconsidering the case, the Eleventh circuit rejected a Johnson-based challenge to the residual clause. The court again rejected Petitioner’s challenge and then denied a rehearing. Petitioner first argues that it is urgent that the Court determinesJohnson’s retroactivity in the Guidelines. Second, in order for prisoners with enhanced sentencing to form a “cognizable” challenge under Johnson they must know if its constitutional holding applies to the Guidelines. Lastly, Petitioner argues that the Court must determine the lower court split on whether the commentary has independent power or is merely interpretive so long as it is consistent with the text.

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