Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Weeks: Judge may find "different occasions" ACCA enhancement

In U.S. v. Weeks, No. 12-11104 (Jan. 31, 2013), the Court affirmed the imposition of a mandatory minimum 180-month sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), rejecting the argument that the sentencing court’s finding that the prior burglary offenses were not “committed on occasions different from one another” violated the Sixth Amendment, because this finding had to be made by a jury. The Court rejected Weeks’ reliance on dicta from Nijhawan v. Holder, 557 U.S. 29 (2009) that, in a criminal prosecution, “circumstance-specific” facts relating to a prior conviction would have to be found by a jury. The Court therefore held that it was bound by its prior holdings that district court may determine the factual nature of prior convictions, so long as they limit themselves to Shepard-approved sources.

Reviewing for “plain error,” the Court also rejected the argument that Weeks might only have been an accomplice for some robberies that others committed. The Court found no evidence in the charging documents that Weeks merely participated as an accomplice, and no Circuit or Supreme Court caselaw indicating that a charging document’s lack of specificity on this point mattered for ACCA classification purposes.