U.S. v. Junior Abreu

U.S. v. Junior Abreu by Lorraine Gauli-Rufo.

We are always searching for statutes and case law developments that help our clients.  A recent Third Circuit case dramatically helps our clients in New York and New Jersey federal clients who have prior convictions.  In interpreting the term  “prior crime of violence” for an enhancement for a firearms offense (922g)), but also will affect determinations of career offender,  the Third Circuit held that prior convictions for  “conspiracy to commit a crime of violence” does not trigger an enhancement under the Guidelines.  A huge win for my clients with prior convictions for conspiracy in a wide range of cases.

The case and a summary follow:

U.S. v. Junior Abreu, 2022 WL 1298569, 

No. 20-2786, CA3, May 2, 2022. The Court determined  (1) The Sentencing Guideline’s commentary defines the phrase “crime of violence” to include “conspiracy to commit a crime of violence;” however, (2) the text of the guideline does not define the phrase “crime of violence” to include conspiracy offenses, or any other type of inchoate offense; (3) because there is no ambiguity in the text of the Guideline, and because the commentary is inconsistent with the text, the commentary is not entitled to deference; therefore (4) Defendant’s prior state conviction for “conspiracy to commit second-degree agg assault” does not trigger the “prior crime of violence” enhancement at U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(a)(4) (and thus, is not a predicate for career offender).  On the issue of preservation, ion; Defense counsel argued below that the Guideline commentary was inconsistent with the guideline text and that the District Court was therefore obligated to “ignore” the commentary. In support of this argument, the defense counsel cited a particular Supreme Court case law line. The defense counsel framed its argument slightly differently and cited different Supreme Court case laws on appeal.  The government argued that because defense counsel had a different argument on appeal, the Appellate Court should apply for a “plain error” review. However, the Court held that the error was preserved and that a de novo review would be applied.

This case was a win-win for federal criminal defense attorneys on what constitutes a crime of violence and preserving issues below.

To discuss the federal criminal defense update, or criminal law more generally, reach out to New Jersey and New York criminal defense lawyer Lorraine Gauli-Rufo at 973-239-4300 or at LGR LAW for a consultation today. For more information about the firm, please visit LGR LAW’s website.

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