Federal Criminal Defense – Common Law Robbery not a violent felony
Federal Criminal Defense law update. On May 18, 2016, A significant case was decided regarding North Carolina common law robbery and the application of the ACCA. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for sentencing the case of United States v. Gardner. The Court held that a prior North Carolina State conviction for common law robbery is not a crime of violence and as such Mr. Gardner was not an Armed Career Criminal.
Mr. Gardner challenged his designation as an armed career criminal under the ACCA. He argued that the three predicate offenses for common law robbery were not “violent felonies.” He argued that the definition of violent felony under the residual clause is unconstitutional and that the robbery convictions do not qualify under the “force clause” of the ACCA.
The United States Supreme Court recently held in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551,2557 (2015) that the language of the residual clause of the ACCA is unconstitutional. The Fourth Circuit then looked at whether or not the North Carolina common law robbery would qualify under the “force” prong. In coming to their decision, the Court used the categorical approach in its analysis. The Fourth Circuit found that North Carolina has defined common law robbery to encompass cases involving the use of minimal force, which does not satisfy the condition of “violent force” required by the ACCA.
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