Wake Forest Law Review

By: Michael Klotz

In United States v. David Carlton Norton, Jr., the defendant appealed his sentence of 180 months under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (“ACCA”). The ACCA punishes an individual who is convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm after three prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses committed on separate occasions.

The issue in Norton was whether prior offenses that were committed on different occasions, but sentenced in a single consolidated judgment count as distinct offenses for the purpose of the ACCA. When determining career offender enhancement, a consolidated sentence for multiple North Carolina convictions is treated as a single sentence even when it punishes separate offenses committed on different occasions (United States v. Davis, 720 F.3d 215 (4th Cir. 2013)).

However, the Norton court reiterated that Davis does not apply to the ACCA. While the ACCA requires that the defendant committed the predicate offenses on different occasions, neither the statutory language of the ACCA nor the guidelines indicates that the offenses must have been tried or sentenced separately. As a result, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Mr. Norton’s conviction and sentence of 180 months.

 

 

 

By: Steven Franklin

Today, in United States v. Carr, the Fourth Circuit held that a defendant can receive the requisite number of Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) predicate convictions through a consolidated criminal judgment.

A jury found Antoine Charles Carr guilty of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, and possession of cocaine base.  Mr. Carr received a 210-month sentence due to a sentencing enhancement under the ACCA. On appeal, Mr. Carr argued that, because he had multiple convictions that fell under one sentence, he did not have the three predicate convictions necessary for the ACCA to apply.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1), a defendant is considered an armed career criminal if he has “three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another.” Similarly, under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual  § 4B1.1(a), a defendant will not be considered a career offender unless two of the convictions have sentences that are counted separately.

However, there is no such language under the ACCA. It simply requires three predicate “convictions.” Mr. Carr attempted to argue that “conviction” and “sentence” are materially indistinguishable, but the Court found this unpersuasive and affirmed the trial court’s decision.