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Showing posts from January, 2017

Definition of Crime of Violence Under 18 U.S.C. §16(b) is Unconstitutional

The Third Circuit ruled that the definition of crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 16(b) is unconstitutionally vague, and therefore the Petitioner’s prior conviction did not constitute a crime of violence.       In Baptiste v. Attorney General, 841 F.3d 601(3d Cir. 2016), the Third Circuit first analyzed the New Jersey aggravated assault statue noting that it covered a “wide array of conduct.”The appellate court further noted that a defendant could be convicted under this law based on: (1) intentional use of force, (2) conduct that presented a substantial risk he or she would use force or (3) conduct that presented no risk of intentional use of force.The result was a defendant could be convicted under the same statute “for conduct as dissimilar as an intentional act of physical violence (first category of conduct) and drunk driving causing accidental injury (third category of conduct).” Ultimately, the Third Circuit concluded that reckless second-degree aggravated assault, in “t…

Divisible Statutes and the Means/Elements Test Under Mathias

In United States v. Henderson, 841 F.3d 623 (3d Cir. 2016), the Third Circuit ruled that Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substances Act was a divisible statue, and thus the district court was correct in applying the modified categorical approach to determine if a conviction under that statue was a “serious drug offense” under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”).The statute was divisible because the controlled substance schedules set forth different elements of the offense, not different means of committing the same offense.
In reaching its decision, the Third Circuit applied the means/elements test established by the Supreme Court in Mathias v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016).Mathias set forth three methods of determining if a factor is a distinct element of the offense, or simply a separate means of committing the offense.Courts should consider (1) whether a state court has decided the matter; (2) the language of the statute; and (3) the record itself. For the statute in dispute in …