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Recent Supreme Court Case Affects "Career Offender" Designation

A simple assault charge cannot be a predicate offense for a "career criminal" designation in Federal system.

In Descamps v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 2276 (June 20, 2013), the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that, the "modified categorical approach" for determining whether a prior conviction falls within the definition for an Armed Career Criminal Act (or the career offender provision, since the same test is employed), cannot be applied where the statute at issue is indivisible -- in other words, does not include a separate set of different crimes. The Pennsylvania Simple Assault statute, 18 Pa.C.S. 2701(a)(1), which includes the attempts to cause or knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury language appears to be of the indivisible variety. Under Descamps, a district court would only be permitted to look at the statutory elements, which include reckless conduct and not at the charging documents, etc. As a result, it does not appear that a simple assault charged under 2701(a)(1) can be a predicate for purposes of the Career Offender provision.

This information should be useful immediately for pending cases, it may also be useful for closed cases.  If an individual has been sentenced as a "career criminal" there may be grounds to reduce their sentence if a simple assault was used to attain that designation.

If you have questions or concerns regarding a federal crime or sentence, you may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC (717) 268-4287or email us today.