Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Seabrooks: Florida robbery is an ACCA "crime of violence"

In U.S. v. Seabrooks, No. 15-10380 (Oct. 19, 2016), the Court rejected challenges to the “aiding and abetting” jury instruction, and, as to sentencing, held that prior Florida robbery convictions qualified as violent felonies under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). Seabrooks was convicted of aiding and abetting in the possession of a stolen firearm, and in being a felon in possession of a firearm. On plain error review, the Court rejected Seabrooks’ argument based on Rosemond v. U.S. that to obtain an aiding and abetting instruction, the government must prove that a defendant had “advance knowledge” of his accomplice’s actions. The Court stated that an aiding and abetting conviction does not invariably require that the aider and abettor know the extent of his confederate’s criminal intentions before he initiates the offense conduct. Rather, it can apply if a defendant does not withdraw from the scene once he realizes the confederate’s criminal designs he qualifies as an aider and abettor. Here, Seabrooks received the stolen firearms from his accomplice and placed them in the console of a vehicle. Further, there was no plain error regarding whether Rosemond requires advance knowledge of a principal’s status as a convicted felon, as neither the Eleventh Circuit nor the Supreme Court have resolved this question. Turning to sentencing, the Court held that, under U.S. v. Lockley, a Florida armed robbery qualified as a “crime of violence” under ACCA. The Court rejected Seabrooks’ argument that Lockley should be limited to post-1999 Florida robberies. The Court noted that the Florida robbery statute has not changed from the 1970s to the present. The Court further noted that since 1922, the Florida Supreme Court has held that the force that is required to make the offense a robbery is force sufficient to overcome a victim’s resistance – the kind of force that qualifies an offense, under ACCA, as a crime of violence. [Martin, J., concurring, did not agree that the scope of the Florida robbery statute had not changed since the 1970s. Judge Martin noted that under McCloud, a 1976 Florida Supreme Court case, “any degree of force” sufficed to convert larceny into robbery. This rule changed in 1997, when the Florida Supreme Court decided Robinson. Seabrooks’ convictions occurred in 1997, after Robinson.]