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U.S. v. NEWBOLD, NO. 10-6929

Decided: June 30, 2015

On remand from the United States Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit denied the government’s motion to remand the case to district court and vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

In 2005, Defendant Joseph Newbold plead guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. At his sentencing, the district court found he possessed three prior North Carolina state court convictions that triggered enhancements under the Armed Career criminal Act (ACCA), including a fifteen-year mandatory-minimum prison term. Newbold argued that at least one of the convictions should not have been considered a predicate serious drug offense because it was not punishable by a term of ten years of imprisonment. Newbold challenged his designation as a career criminal by 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion. Section 2255 allows a federal prisoner to move to set aside a sentence on the grounds that “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

The Court held that pursuant to Miller, a petitioner may challenge on collateral review, under a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, a Simmons error resulting in his erroneous designation as an armed career criminal. The Court found that Simmons was retroactive and the sentencing error Newbold sought to challenge was cognizable on collateral review. The court proceeded to examine Newbold’s prior convictions, and found that nothing in the record supports the idea that Newbold ever faced more than the presumptive term of three years for the state court, possession of drugs with intent to deliver conviction that the government sought to use as a federal ACAA predicate. The Court concluded that based on an examination of North Carolina’s sentencing regime, as well as Newbold’s criminal history and the circumstances of his offence, he should not have been sentenced under the ACCA as a career criminal.

Accordingly, the Court vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded for further proceedings.

Full Opinion

Meredith Weisler