United States v. Lee

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 12-28-2012
  • Case #: 10-10403
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fisher for the Court; Circuit Judges S. Thomas and S. Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

When a defendant pleads guilty to violating a broad statute with 2 or more offenses, the court must be specific, for the purposes of determining career offender status or other enhanced sentencing designations, which offense was committed.

Jason Lee was convicted under 21 U.S.C. §841 for selling crack cocaine. Lee's sentence included a "career offender" enhancement that increased his sentencing range. Lee appealed the career offender enhancement alleging that at least one of his two previous controlled substance convictions should not have applied toward the career offender enhancement. The Court reviewed the case de novo. Lee's first argument on appeal was that his first conviction should not apply as a predicate offense because the statute was overly broad. The Court employed a "modified categorical approach" because the statute was overly broad and concluded that within the statute there were two possible offenses and one did not qualify against a career offender designation. Lee had plead guilty to violating the statute, but the lower court did not make a clear distinction as to which offense within the statute was violated. Lee alleged in his second argument that a later conviction also had an ambiguity based upon the mandatory minimum sentence which Lee received, probation. The Court found this second argument to be without merit. The Court remanded the sentence to the lower court to determine whether Lee's first conviction qualified as a predicate offense. SENTENCE VACATED AND REMANDED

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