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Decided: April 26, 2016

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that the two burglaries that served as part of the predicate for Linney’s Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) sentencing enhancement occurred on different occasions.

On August 8 and 9, 2013, Linney and two companions engaged in a crime spree that started with a pair of burglaries and ended with a high-speed police chase.  When the pursuing officers eventually captured Linney and his companions, they learned that Linney had been in possession of a 9-mm handgun, but had one of his companions toss it out the window during the chase.  On August 21, 2013, a federal grand jury charged Linney with being a felon in possession of a firearm.  In anticipation of Linney’s sentencing hearing, a probation officer prepared a presentence report (“PSR”).  The PSR took note of three North Carolina burglary convictions Linney had previously received and accordingly classified Linney as an armed career criminal under the ACCA—a classification that came with a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence.  The PSR recommended a sentence for Linney that included 188 to 235 months of incarceration.  Linney argued that two of the burglaries noted in the PSR occurred on the same occasion and thus both could not be used to support the ACCA enhancement.  Linney contended that the burglaries were committed at neighboring houses during a largely overlapping three-hour time period, and that they shared the same nature and objective.  The district court held that the two burglaries were distinct, as they involved different victims, different locations, and different times.  The district court sentenced Linney to 235 months of incarceration.

A defendant found guilty of violating the felon in possession prohibition is subject to the ACCA fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentencing enhancement if he has three previous “violent felony” convictions.  For Linney to receive the ACCA enhancement, therefore, each of the three North Carolina burglaries must also have been committed on occasions different from one another.  The Court relied on five factors to determine whether the predicate ACCA offenses were committed on different occasion: (1) whether the offenses “arise in different geographic 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 and knowing decision to engage in the next-in-time offense.”  The burglaries occurred at two distinct street addresses, which means that they occurred at different geographic locations.  Likewise, the burglaries involved different victims.

Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that the two burglaries occurred on different occasions.

Full Opinion

Katie E. Lowery