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United States v. Edwards

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

September 8, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Justin Edwards, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Ryan Pouliot, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued December 10, 2015

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. Nos. 13-cr-56, 14-cr-102, 14-cr-104, Barbara B. Crabb, Judge., James D. Peterson, Judge.

          Before Posner, Manion, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Sykes, Circuit Judge.

         In separate cases Justin Edwards and Ryan Pouliot pleaded guilty to firearms offenses that carry an enhanced base offense level under the Sentencing Guidelines if the defendant has a prior conviction for a "crime of violence." See U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(a). At the time they were sentenced, the version of the Guidelines then in effect defined "crime of violence" to include "any offense under federal or state law ... that ... is burglary of a dwelling." Id. § 451.2(a)(2).[1] Both defendants have prior Wisconsin convictions for burglary; the district judge in each case counted the convictions as crime-of-violence predicates and applied the higher offense level. The defendants challenge the enhancement, arguing that a conviction under Wisconsin's burglary statute cannot serve as a predicate offense under § 2K2.1(a). Because their appeals raise the same issue, we've consolidated them for decision.

         To determine whether a prior conviction counts as a crime of violence requires a categorical approach that focuses on the statutory definition of the crime of conviction. If state law defines the offense more broadly than the Guidelines, the prior conviction doesn't qualify as a crime of violence, even if the defendant's conduct satisfies all of the elements of the Guidelines offense. In a narrow set of circumstances, the sentencing court may go one step beyond the statute itself. When a single statute creates multiple offenses, the court may consult a limited universe of documents to determine which offense the defendant was convicted of committing. This inquiry is called the "modified categorical approach, " but it only applies to "divisible" statutes. The Supreme Court recently clarified that a statute is considered divisible only if it creates multiple offenses by setting forth alternative elements. See United States v. Mathis, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016).

         Wisconsin defines burglary more broadly than the Guidelines: The relevant statute prohibits burglary of a "building or dwelling." Wis.Stat. § 943.10(lm)(a). The judges in both cases consulted the state charging documents to determine whether Edwards and Pouliot were convicted of burglary of a dwelling as required by § 4B1.2(a)(2). The documents revealed that both were charged with burgling a dwelling, so the judges applied a higher offense level under §2K2.1(a).

         After Mathis, however, it's clear that this recourse to state-court charging documents was improper. The relevant subsection of Wisconsin's burglary statute sets forth alternative means of satisfying the location element of the state's burglary offense. Accordingly, we vacate the sentences and remand for resentencing.

         I. Background

         A. Edwards

         In 2013 Justin Edwards was charged with possessing a firearm as a felon, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and possessing a short-barreled shotgun, see 26 U.S.C. §§5841, 5845(a)(2), 5861(d). He was released on bond while an appeal of an evidentiary ruling was pending and quickly racked up multiple state-law charges in three separate cases. In September 2014 Edwards was again arrested and charged with two more federal gun crimes-another charge of possessing a firearm as a felon and a charge of possessing a firearm as a drug user, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3). Plea agreements were reached in both the 2013 and the 2014 federal cases.

         Two disputes arose at sentencing. First, the judge determined that Edwards's prior Wisconsin conviction for burglary of a "building or dwelling, " Wis.Stat. § 943.10(lm)(a), qualified as a crime of violence under § 4B1.2(a)(2) of the Guidelines. To make that determination, the judge consulted the state charging documents-a criminal complaint and information. Both documents stated that Edwards "intentionally enter[ed] a dwelling, without the consent of the person in lawful possession of the place, and with intent to steal." On that basis, and over Edwards's objection, the judge applied a higher base offense level under § 2K2.1(a)(2).

         Second, and again over Edwards's objection, the judge declined to apply an acceptance-of-responsibility reduction under § 3E1.1 of the Guidelines because Edwards committed multiple criminal offenses while on pretrial release for the 2013 charges. With the crime-of-violence enhancement and without an acceptance-of-responsibility reduction, the Guidelines range was 92-115 months. The judge imposed a sentence of 92 months, the bottom of the range.

         B. Pouliot

         In an unrelated case in the same district, Ryan Pouliot was charged with possessing a firearm and ammunition as a felon, and he too pleaded guilty. At sentencing the judge determined that Pouliot's prior Wisconsin burglary conviction qualified as a crime of violence under § 4B1.2(a)(2) of the Guidelines. As in Edwards's case, the judge consulted the charging documents in the underlying state proceedings to make that determination; those documents revealed that Pouliot had been charged with burgling a dwelling. The judge accordingly rejected Pouliot's objection and applied the crime-of-violence enhancement under § 2K2.1(a)(3), which yielded a Guidelines range of 84-105 months. The judge imposed a below-range sentence of 72 months.

         II. Discussion

         Edwards and Pouliot challenge the application of the crime-of-violence enhancement based on their Wisconsin burglary convictions. Edwards also challenges the judge's refusal to apply an acceptance-of-responsibility reduction under § 3E1.1.

         A. ...


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