Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, December 21, 2020

Smith: State PD Not Ineffective When Correctly Advised Client About State Plea Deal

 In United States v. Smith, No. 19-12686 (Hull, William Pryor, Marcus), the Court affirmed the defendant’s felon-in-possession conviction and sentence.

As to the conviction, the defendant argued that his state public defender was ineffective during state plea negotiations, and that the federal indictment should be dismissed.  Assuming without deciding that the Sixth Amendment attached during state plea negotiations, the Court determined that there was no ineffective assistance of counsel.  There was no deficient performance because the state public defender correctly communicated, and reasonably advised the client to accept, the state prosecutor’s 5-year plea deal, which would have resulted in the federal prosecutor dropping the federal charge carrying a 15-year mandatory minimum.  And there was no prejudice because the client was adamant that he would not have accepted a 5-year deal in state court because he wanted to go to trial, and he believed that the federal prosecutor was bluffing about filing charges.

As to the sentence, the Court affirmed the ACCA sentence because its prior precedent in Smith established that Florida sale of cocaine under 893.13 was a “serious drug offense.”