Lockhart v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: May 26, 2015
  • Case #: 14-8358
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 2d Cir. (2014)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the federal sentencing enhancement under 18 U.S.C. 2252(b)(2) requires that a prior conviction involve a minor or ward.

18 U.S.C. 2252 provides a federal sentencing enhancement by requiring a 10 year minimum sentence for the possession of child pornography if a defendant has a prior conviction "under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward." The issue is, under the language of the statute, whether an “aggravated sexual abuse” or “sexual abuse” conviction must involve a minor or ward, or whether only “abusive sexual conduct” is modified by the phrase “involving a minor or ward."

Defendant pled guilty to an attempt to possess child pornography in March 2011. Defendant has a previous sexual abuse conviction (involving an adult) from 2000. When the State imposed the federal sentencing enhancement of 18 U.S.C. 2252 because of the prior conviction, defendant appealed, arguing that the statutory language required that the previous conviction involve a minor or ward. The lower court held that the statutory language did not require the involvement of a minor or ward, and the 2nd Circuit upheld the decision. Because there is a circuit split on whether the language of the statute requires the previous conviction to involve a minor or ward, the Supreme Court granted cert to resolve the dispute.

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