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By:  Steven M. Franklin

Yesterday, in U.S. v. Fikes, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision by the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina to classify Mr. Kevin Fikes, Jr., as an armed career criminal.

What Happened?

Mr. Fikes pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2). The District Court designated Mr. Fikes as an armed career criminal, and thus sentenced him to 180 months in prison.

Is There a Problem?

On appeal, Mr. Fikes contended that the District Court erred in two regards. First, the District Court should not have considered predicate offenses that were neither pleaded in the indictment nor proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt to designate him as an armed career criminal. Second, because his predicate offenses were consolidated, the offenses should not have been considered separately to satisfy the armed career criminal enhancement.

No Problem Here, Mr. Fikes

In regard to Mr. Fikes first contention, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the District Court did not err. Even if a conviction is not found by a jury, the fact of a prior conviction nonetheless remains a valid enhancement. The Fourth Circuit also concluded that the District Court did not err in regard to Mr. Fikes’ second contention because predicate offenses do not need to be tried or sentenced separately to be considered “separate offenses” under the armed career criminal enhancement.

The Fourth Circuit Affirms

For these reasons, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision to classify Mr. Fikes as an armed career criminal.

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