Announcements and Law Updates

A comprehensive discussion of new Ninth Circuit cases, and of other new legal challenges and ideas, can be found on the Ninth Circuit blog. The Ninth Circuit blog contains Federal Defender Jon Sands' weekly Ninth Circuit summaries, interesting new defense challenges and theories posted by AFPDs David Porter and Steve Sady, and the “Case o’ The Week” memos by Federal Defender Steve Kalar. The Ninth Circuit blog is a useful starting place for the latest developments in federal criminal defense.

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SCOTUS: Stokeling Decision on Robbery as Violent Felony

The Supreme Court issued an opinion today in Stokeling v. U.S., concerning whether Florida’s robbery statute qualifies as a violent felony under the ACCA.  Unfortunately it was a 5-4 decision that went for the government (Breyer plus the 4 most-conservative Justices in the majority, and Roberts plus the 3 liberals in dissent). 

Florida’s robbery statute only required the use of sufficient force to overcome the victim’s resistance.  Stokeling argued that this amount of force was not enough to qualify as a violent felony under ACCA’s force clause, citing Curtis Johnson v. United States, 559 U. S. 133 (2010), which held that ACCA’s force clause required the predicate offense to entail violent physical force, capable of causing pain or physical injury.  The Court held that Florida’s statute, which is consistent with the common-law definition of robbery, required sufficient force under Curtis Johnson (though the decision certainly “nuanced” Johnson).  

The decision should not apply to California robbery, however, and existing case law holding that CPC 211 is not a violent felony under the ACCA and not a crime of violence under the Guidelines remains good law. See United States v. Bankston, 901 F.3d 1100, 1104 (9th Cir. 2018) (Guidelines); United States v. Dixon, 805 F.3d 1193, 1196 (9th Cir. 2015) (ACCA).  CPC 211 is still not a crime of violence because unlike the Florida statute, you can violate CPC 211 by threatening to use force against property not another person, and because CPC 211 can be violated if you accidentally use force, which is an insufficient mens rea to qualify.