New opinion — another crime triggers longer career-offender sentences

U.S. v. Bullock — criminal sentencing — affirmance — Hardiman

The Third Circuit today held that a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 111(b) is categorically a crime of violence, and thus eligible under the federal sentencing guidelines for major sentencing increases as a career offender. Section 111(a) makes it a crime to forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, or interfere with” designated persons, including federal prison guards, and subsection (b) sets a higher statutory maximum sentence for committing those acts using a dangerous weapon or inflicting bodily injury. A crime qualifies as a crime of violence if it involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against someone.

So basically the issue here boiled down to whether the least violent way to violate § 111(b) — say, intimidating a guard by means of any weapon “capable of causing physical injury or pain,” which sounds to me like anything this side of cooked spaghetti — requires at least threatened use of force.

The Court held that it did, joining six other circuits. While this is bad news for Mr. Bullock, the opinion may prove helpful to future defendants arguing that § 111(b) does not apply to them in the first place.

Joining Hardiman were Smith and Krause. The appeal appears to have been decided without oral argument.