Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Smith: No mens rea element required for prior drug offenses

In U.S. v. Smith, No. 13-15227 (Dec. 22, 2014), the Court rejected the argument that, for prior criminal history sentence enhancement purposes, prior drug convictions should not count as “serious drug offenses” or “controlled substance offenses,” because the prior convictions did not contain the requisite mens rea element. The Court explained that neither the statutory definition of a “serious drug offense,” nor the Guideline definition of a “controlled substance offense” expressed or implied an element of mens rea. The Court declined to presume that mental culpability was a required element, because the definitions were “unambiguous.” The Court distinguished cases that involved different definitions.