Jun 29, 2017 Today’s criminal conviction can make tomorrow’s sentence harsher
A prosecutor one day told me that for criminal defendants with prior convictions, he liked making plea offers that varied the types of convictions that would accumulate on their rap sheets. Apparently, this prosecutor wanted to enhance the collateral damage that the defendant’s convictions would cause him or her, at least if convicted for any subsequent crimes.
Part of the criminal defense lawyer’s role is to aim to minimize the collateral damage of a particular conviction or sentence. That does not mean that the defense lawyer always will be able to eliminate that collateral damage, but that the collateral risks need to be part of the criminal defense lawyer’s consideration in discussing settlement negotiations with his or her client.
THE HARSHNESS OF THE FEDERAL ARMED CAREER CRIMINAL ACT
Quantrell Dion Reid recently learned the bitter pill of collateral damage from past convictions on new sentencing. United States v. Reid, ___ F.3d ___ (4th Cir., June 28,, 2017). Reid entered a guilty plea to guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). At sentencing, Reid got slammed under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1), with a fifteen year prison sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) for his three prior Virginia convictions for violent felonies.
Reid was convicted three times for three separate incident dates under Virginia Code § 18.2-55 for assaulting juvenile detention center employees, apparently when he was a juvenile detainee. That Virginia code section prohibits “knowingly and willfully inflict[ing] bodily injury on” people including detention center employees.
Applying the categorical approach to reviewing an ACCA sentence, the Fourth Circuit easily found that Reid’s three prior convictions under Va. Code § 18.2-55 qualified as predicate ACCA violent felonies:
“In Johnson [v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010)], the Supreme Court explained that the term ‘physical force,’ as used in ACCA’s force clause, means something beyond the ‘mere unwanted touching’ necessary to prove common law battery. Johnson Rather, because the term ‘physical force’ contributes to the definition of a ‘violent felony,’ it is understood to mean ‘violent force — that is, force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.’ Id. at 140.”
Reid subsequently concludes:
“At bottom, we hold that, because Virginia Code § 18.2-55 requires that the defendant ‘knowingly and willfully inflict bodily injury’ on the victim, a conviction under that statute falls within ACCA’s definition of a violent felony and therefore serves as a predicate offense under § 924(e)(1).”
THE CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER NEEDS TO WARN ABOUT FUTURE RISKS FROM CURRENT CONVICTIONS
Whether Reid received any of his Virginia § 18.2-55 convictions through a guilty, nolo contendere, or Alford plea , or a not guilty plea that led to a trial conviction, hopefully his lawyer for those cases warned him that those convictions would harm any sentencings for subsequent convictions.
To speak with criminal defense lawyer Jon Katz about your case, please contact his staff at 703-383-1100 or firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .