Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, November 28, 2005

James: Possession of 200 grams of cocaine is "serious drug offense"

In U.S. v. James, No. 04-12915 (Nov. 17, 2005), the Court, on appeal by the government, vacated a 71-month sentence for a felon-in-possession conviction and remanded with instructions to resentence Mr. James as an armed career criminal with a fifteen-year minimum mandatory sentence. At the core of the appeal was the question of whether a Florida conviction for trafficking in cocaine by possession of between 200 and 400 grams of cocaine constituted a "serious drug offense" under the ACCA. The district court noted that under Florida law such a conviction did not have as an element the intent to distribute, and it thus reasoned that it did not qualify as a predicate offense under the ACCA which defines a serious drug offense as a offense "involving" the intent to distribute. Reversing, the Court held that Florida law "infers an intent to distribute once a defendant possesses a certain amount of drugs," and that the conviction qualified as a predicate offense. On cross-appeal, the Court affirmed the district court's holding that attempted burglary of a dwelling is a "violent felony" under the ACCA.