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U.S. v. SPAN, NO. 14-4655

Decided: June 8, 2015

The Fourth Circuit held that the Government failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant’s prior felonies were separate and distinct criminal episodes for the purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (“ACCA’). The Court vacated the District Court’s application of the ACCA enhancement and remanded for resentencing.

Defendant, Span, appealed the District Court’s ruling that each of his three robbery offenses were distinctly separate offenses. A defendant qualifies for an enhanced sentence under the ACAA if the defendant has three previous convictions for a violent felony or serious drug offense and if those offenses were committed on occasions different from one another. The Court found that Span’s robbery offenses were not “committed on occasions different from one another” under the ACCA because discrepancies in the state court documents casted doubt on the date of the robberies and the Court’s application of the Letterlough factors did not lead the court to the conclusion that the robbery occurred on a separate occasion. The Letterlough factors include 1) whether the offenses arose in different locations; 2) whether the nature of each offense was substantively different; 3) whether each offense involved different victims; 4) whether each offense involved different criminal objectives; and 5) whether the defendant had the opportunity after committing the first-in-time offense to make a conscious decision to engage in the next offense.

Accordingly, the Court vacated the District Court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Full Opinion

Meredith Weisler