Mendoza v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: October 7, 2019
  • Case #: 18-9234
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 754 Fed. Appx 25 (2d Cir. 2018)

Whether 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B)’s definition of “crime of violence” exists as unconstitutionally vague and, in the event the Court finds the definition of a “crime of violence” does not violate the vagueness doctrine, whether application of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) exists as unconstitutional where a court dispenses with the requirement that a jury determine a defendant’s guilt for each element of the offense of a conviction.

A jury convicted Petitioner on multiple counts, including use of a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). The underlying crime of violence constituted conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery. On appeal, Petitioner argued that conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery did not constitute a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3). The Second Circuit rejected Petitioner’s argument based on precedent holding that conspiracy to commit robbery inherently presents a substantial risk of physical force so as to constitute a crime of violence. The Second Circuit acknowledged Petitioner’s argument regarding the dubious nature of its precedent in light of Supreme Court decisions, but adhered to precedent regardless, excusing due process vagueness concerns by noting that a jury could make a conduct-specific § 924(c)(3)(B) determination. However, the Second Circuit excused the lack of a conduct-specific determination by a jury in Petitioner’s case as a harmless error. In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Davis, Petitioner requested that the Supreme Court summarily grant Petitioner’s writ of certiorari and vacate the Second Circuit’s judgment if the Court affirmed the holding in Davis. 588 U.S. ___ (2019).  In a summary disposition order, the Supreme Court granted review and entered a judgment vacating and remanding the case for consideration in light of Davis. VACATED AND REMANDED.

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