Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Gandy: Florida Battery by Bodily-Harm Satisfies the Elements Clause, and Courts May Consider Arrest Reports Incorporated in a Plea Agreement

In United States v. Gandy, No. 17-15035 (Mar. 6, 2019) (William Pryor, Rosenbaum, Conway), the Court held that Florida battery of a jail detainee was a crime of violence under the elements clause in the Guidelines.

Although the parties agreed that Florida battery has two alternative elements -- "touching or striking" and "intentional causation of bodily harm" -- the Court reserved judgment on whether "touching or striking" was divisible.  That is so because it concluded that the defendant's conviction was for "intentional causation of harm," and that form of Florida battery necessarily required the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force.  To arrive at that conclusion, the Court relied on an arrest report.  Although arrest reports are not Shepard documents and ordinarily may not be considered, the Court relied on it here because the report was incorporated by reference into a plea agreement, which was a Shepard document.   And the Court concluded that the defendant agreed to the arrest report as the factual basis of his plea, without qualification. 

Judge Rosenbaum dissented, opining that the Shepard documents did not allow the Court to conclude that the defendant was "necessarily" convicted of bodily-harm battery.  On her view, the factual basis for the plea would have satisfied both the touching/striking and bodily-harm elements, and so the court could not conclude that his offense necessarily was for the latter.  And, on her view, the arrest report only supplied the arresting officer's legal conclusion that the defendant committed bodily-harm battery; it did not necessarily show that this was the type of battery for which he was ultimately prosecuted and convicted. 

Padgett: Pro se Filing Stating Intent to File Collateral IAC Attack was not a Notice of Appeal

In United States v. Padgett, No. 16-16144 (Mar. 6, 2019) (Branch, Wilson, Vinson), the Court dismissed the defendant's appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

The defendant was subject to an appeal waiver and a 2255 waiver, with an exception for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.  At and after sentencing, the defendant confirmed that he had waived his right to appeal.  Immediately after sentencing, the defendant filed a pro se filing in the district court, notifying the court of her intent to file a collateral attack based on effective assistance of counsel.  The district court docketed that filing as a notice of appeal.  In the Eleventh Circuit, the government moved to dismiss the appeal for failure to file a notice of appeal.  The Eleventh Circuit agreed.  Although it recognized that pro se pleadings are liberally construed, it concluded that the defendant was aware of her appellate waiver, and thus did not intend to file a notice of appeal but rather a collateral attack based on ineffective assistance (a claim typically brought collaterally, not on direct appeal).  Nor was the pro se filing the functional equivalent of a notice of appeal, as it failed to reference an appeal or an appellate court.  That the district court docketed the filing as a notice of appeal was not determinative. 

Judge Wilson dissented, opining that he would liberally construe the pro se filing as a notice of appeal, as the district court construed it as such, and it was properly filed in the district court within the 14-day period to appeal.

Gibbs: Brief Roadside Detention at Gunpoint Was a Lawful Traffic Stop

In United States v. Gibbs, No. 17-12474 (Mar. 6, 2019) (Marcus, Dubina, Goldberg), the Court upheld the denial of a motion to suppress.

Officers observed a vehicle drive into oncoming traffic and illegally park in the middle of the street.  Officers approached the vehicle, with its engine still running, and effectively blocked in (and thus detained) two individuals who had just exited the car.  As the officers approached, with their guns drawn, the defendant blurted out that he possessed a firearm.  The Court first determined that the officers had a lawful basis to detain both men, as the situation arose out of a lawful traffic stop.  The officers were justified in briefly detaining the defendant, even though he was not the driver, because based on their location in between cars, the officers could not have detained the driver without also detaining the defendant, and one of the officers did not know at the time which individual was the driver.  Emphasizing the very brief detention and the dangers associated with traffic stops, the Court determined that the detention was not unreasonable under the particular facts and circumstances of the case.  Finally, the Court determined that the officers did not convert the lawful stop into an unlawful one merely by drawing their weapons; rather, the lawfulness of the encounter turned on the validity of the stop, which was lawful.