Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, January 15, 2016

Adams: Vacating ACCA sentence post-Johnson

In U.S. v. Adams, No. 14-14329 (Jan. 12, 2016), the Court vacated the 15-year sentence of a defendant sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), because he had been sentenced under ACCA’s residual clause. Two of Adams’ prior convictions were for third-degree fleeing or attempting to elude, in violation of Fla. Stat. § 316.1935. In the trial court, Adams had objected that the residual clause was unconstitutionally vague, and, while his appeal was pending, the Supreme Court so held in Johnson. The Court noted that Adams’ § 315.1935 prior convictions, post-Johnson, could qualify as predicate offenses only if they qualified under other ACCA provisions, such as the elements clause. But the § 315.1935 offenses did not have as an element the use of physical force and did not otherwise qualify. Those prior convictions were no longer ACCA-qualifying offenses, as the government conceded. The Court noted that at sentencing the government “disavowed reliance on a fourth conviction to form the basis of the ACCA enhancement. Citing U.S. v. Canty, the Court held that the government thereby waived its opportunity to now rely on this fourth offense.