United States v. Donnell, No. 09-4851

Decided Oct. 27, 2011

Donnell pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and the district court sentenced him to 78 months imprisonment based on its finding that Donnell had at least two prior felony convictions for crimes of violence. Donnell appealed his sentence. Donnell argued that the district court erred by relying on the facts in an unincorporated “statement of probable cause” to determine that the second conviction, a Maryland second-degree assault conviction, involved violence, and therefore his sentence should not have been enhanced based on this conviction.

The Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded for resentencing. Under Shephard and Simms, a statement of probable cause is appropriately considered only if the document is expressly incorporated into the charging document. An external document contains uncertainties that make reliance on such a document questionable without express incorporation to assure that the defendant actually admitted to the facts contained in the external document.

Full Citation

-Sara I. Salehi

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