Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sneed: Precluding Police Reports as Source for 924(e) Temporality Findings

In U.S. v. Sneed, No. 09-13195 (March 24, 2010), the Court vacated the 15-year minimum mandatory sentence imposed, based on his three prior convictions, on a defendant convicted of being a felon in possession of firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).

Section 924(e) provides for a sentence enhancement if the defendant committed three prior qualifying felonies on occasions different from one another. The district court, over Sneed’s objection, found that the three prior felonies were committed on different occasions – based only on police reports.

On appeal, the Court recognized that U.S. v. Richardson, 230 F.3d 1297 (11th Cir. 2000), held that a sentencing court could consider police reports for purposes of determining whether three prior qualifying felonies were committed on occasions different from one another. The Court determined that Richardson had effectively been abrogated by Shephard v. U.S., 544 U.S. 13 (2005).

The Court noted that Shephard precluded reliance on police reports to establish the nature of a prior conviction for purposes of the § 924(e) enhancement. The Court recognized that Shepard thus addressed the nature of prior convictions, not, as in Richardson, whether the prior convictions were temporally separate. However, noting Shephard’s Sixth Amendment concerns, the Court found “simply no distinction” between the two inquiries. It held that police reports are not Shephard-approved sources for § 924(e) findings with respect to whether offenses were committed on different occasions.

The Court vacated Sneed’s sentence and remanded for resentencing without the § 924(e) enhancement.