Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, September 22, 2016

White: Prior Alabama drug convictions count as ACCA predicates

In U.S. v. White, No. 14-14044 (Sept. 21, 2016), the Court rejected the defendant’s argument that his prior Alabama drug trafficking convictions qualified under ACCA as a “serious drug offense.” White’s prior Alabama offense was for possessing marihuana “for other than personal use.” White argued that he could have possessed marihuana to administer or dispense it. The Court rejected this as a mere “theoretical possibility.” The Court also rejected the argument that its precedent in U.S. v. Robinson, which had rejected the same argument, had been abrogated by the Supreme Court subsequent decision in Descamps. Descamps’ holding that the modified categorical approach applies only when a statute is divisible “has no bearing” on whether possession of marijuana for other than personal use necessarily involves an intent to distribute, that is, a “serious drug offense.” The Court likewise rejected the argument that White’s prior cocaine conviction was not a predicate ACCA offense, because it was merely based on a quantity of cocaine, not necessarily manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to do either. The Court noted that it had rejected this same argument previously, finding one could infer an intent to traffic in cocaine from the quantity of cocaine involved. The Court again rejected the argument that its prior precedent was no longer controlling in light of Descamps.