- Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
- Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
- Date Filed: June 28, 2019
- Case #: 18-6662
- Judge(s)/Court Below: Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, 736 F. App’x 876 (2018).
- Full Text Opinion
Petitioner pled guilty to the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon as well as possession of cocaine and cocaine base, violating 18 U.S.C. §922(g), 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(C). Petitioner was classified as an armed career criminal based on prior state drug related convictions. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Petitioner’s sentence. The court held the categorical approach is not appropriate to determine “serious drug offenses” because the phrase is defined by federal statute and therefore does not need satisfy a generic standard. Petitioner argues that the decision below was incorrect and the categorical approach would disqualify his state convictions as “serious drug offenses” because they are more broadly defined than the generic counterpart which requires a mens rea element of “knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance.” Petitioner further argues that the Eleventh Circuit departed from Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990) (holding enumerated “violent felony” offenses to be understood in a generic sense, independent of various state criminal codes. This requires a “formal categorical approach” to determine whether a prior state conviction constitutes a predicate offense.) The Supreme Court has not yet applied the categorical approach in the determination of a “serious drug offense.” Finally, Petitioner argues that there is no logical or textual basis to treat “serious drug offenses” differently than “violent felonies.”