U.S. v. James, No. 04-12915.

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
Writing for the CourtWilson
Citation430 F.3d 1150
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant-Cross-Appellee, v. Alphonso JAMES, Jr., Defendant-Appellee-Cross-Appellant.
Decision Date17 November 2005
Docket NumberNo. 04-12915.
430 F.3d 1150
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant-Cross-Appellee,
v.
Alphonso JAMES, Jr., Defendant-Appellee-Cross-Appellant.
No. 04-12915.
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
November 17, 2005.

Page 1151

Karin B. Hoppmann, Tampa, FL, Jeffrey F. Michelland, Fort Myers, FL, for U.S.

Craig L. Crawford and R. Fletcher Peacock, Fed. Pub. Defenders, Orlando, FL, Martin Derovanesian, Asst. Fed. Pub. Def., Fort Myers, FL, for James.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Before BLACK, WILSON and COX, Circuit Judges.

WILSON, Circuit Judge:


This appeal addresses whether certain Florida state convictions qualify as predicate felony convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Alphonso James, Jr. was indicted for possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). At sentencing, the district court found that two of James's

Page 1152

previous felony convictions qualified as predicate convictions under the ACCA, but rejected a third conviction, and therefore, did not enhance James's sentence under the ACCA. The United States ("the Government") appeals the district court's ruling. James cross-appeals, challenging the district court's decision to count one of his previous convictions as a qualifying felony under the ACCA. James also argues that § 922(g) is unconstitutional.

We hold that the district court erred when it held that James's Florida conviction for trafficking in cocaine by possession of between 200 and 400 grams of cocaine was not a predicate conviction under the ACCA. We therefore vacate the sentence imposed and remand, directing the district court to sentence James in accordance with the ACCA.

I. BACKGROUND

In June of 2003, the Government charged James with possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). James pled guilty as charged.

The Government sought to have James's sentence enhanced under the ACCA, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The ACCA provides a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years for any person who violates 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) after three convictions in either federal or state court for a "violent felony" or "serious drug offense." See § 924(e). In 1997, James was convicted in a Florida state court of attempted burglary of a dwelling, in violation of Florida Statute §§ 810.02 and 777.04. In 1998, James was convicted in Florida state court of trafficking in illegal drugs in violation of Florida Statute § 893.135. Later that year, James was again convicted in Florida state court under the same statute for trafficking in cocaine by possession of between 200 and 400 grams of cocaine. Based on James's three prior felony convictions, the probation officer recommended that James be sentenced as an armed career criminal under the ACCA.

At sentencing, James objected, arguing that neither his attempted burglary conviction, nor his trafficking by possession conviction, should count as a predicate conviction under the ACCA. The district court concluded that James's attempted burglary conviction was a "violent felony" under § 924(e)(2)(B) of the ACCA. The district court also concluded, however, that James's trafficking by possession conviction did not qualify as a "serious drug offense" under § 924(e)(2)(A) of the ACCA, reasoning that the Florida statute under which James was convicted did not include as an element of proof that James had intended to distribute his 200 to 400 grams of cocaine. Therefore, the district court refused to enhance James's sentence under the ACCA because he did not qualify as an armed career criminal, as he had only two predicate convictions. The district court sentenced James to 71 months' imprisonment, followed by 36 months' supervised release.

The Government now appeals the district court's decision not to count James's trafficking by possession conviction as a "serious drug offense" for purposes of sentencing him under the ACCA. James cross-appeals, challenging the district court's decision to count his attempted burglary conviction as a "violent felony." James further argues that § 922(g) is unconstitutional either facially, or as applied to him, because it exceeds Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause.

II. DISCUSSION

Page 1153

There are two issues on appeal:1 (1) whether the district court erred by failing to count James's conviction for trafficking in cocaine by possession of between 200 and 400 grams of cocaine as a "serious drug offense" under the ACCA; and (2) whether the district court erred by counting James's conviction for attempted burglary of a dwelling as a "violent felony" under the same statute. We review de novo whether a conviction is a "violent felony" or a "serious drug offense" within the meaning of § 924(e). United States v. Wilkerson, 286 F.3d 1324, 1325 (11th Cir.2002) (per curiam).

A. Whether Trafficking in Cocaine by Possession of between 200 and 400 Grams of Cocaine is a "Serious Drug Offense"

The Government argues that the district court erred by failing to count James's Florida state conviction for trafficking in cocaine by possession of between 200 and 400 grams of cocaine as a "serious drug offense" under the ACCA. The ACCA defines a "serious drug offense" as "an offense under State law, involving manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance . . . , for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law." § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii).

The Florida Statute under which James was convicted, section 893.135(1)(b)(1)(b), reads as follows:

Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, 28 grams or more of cocaine, as described in § 893.03(2)(a)4., or of any mixture containing cocaine, but less than 150 kilograms of cocaine or any such mixture, commits a felony of the first degree, which felony shall be known as "trafficking in cocaine,". . . . If the quantity involved:

. . .

b. Is 200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 7 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $100,000.

The district court concluded that the statute did not satisfy the ACCA's requirement that the offense involve the "intent to manufacture or distribute," § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii), because the Florida statute does not have "as an element" of the offense an intent to manufacture or distribute.

On appeal, the Government argues that Congress defined a "serious drug offense" under the ACCA to include any state offense "involving" the intent to distribute, not only those offenses having "as an element" such intent. In support, the Government cites United States v. Madera-Madera, 333 F.3d 1228 (11th Cir.2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1026, 124 S.Ct. 589, 157 L.Ed.2d 447 (2003), in which we rejected the district court's reasoning in an analogous context. In Madera-Madera, the defendant committed a prior offense of possession of 87 grams of methamphetamine, a violation of a Georgia law prohibiting the possession of 28 grams or more of the drug. Id. at 1231. We had to determine whether such an offense qualified as

Page 1154

a "drug trafficking offense" for purposes of enhancement under the Sentencing Guidelines. Id. Although Georgia law expressly designated the defendant's offense as drug "trafficking," the defendant argued that the offense should not be considered a trafficking offense...

To continue reading

Request your trial
87 practice notes
  • Gasparotto v. United States, CASE NO.: 16-22306-CV-SEITZ
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • 14 Diciembre 2018
    ...v. Hale, 705 Fed. Appx. 876, 879 (11th Cir. 2017), cert. den'd, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1030 (2018) (quoting United States v. James, 430 F.3d 1150, 1155 (11th Cir. 2005) (rejecting thePage 21 argument that the statutory offense must have as an element an intent to manufacture or distribute......
  • James v. United States, No. 05–9264.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 18 Abril 2007
    ...Sixth Amendment issues under [127 S.Ct. 1590]Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435, lacks merit. P. 1600. 430 F.3d 1150, affirmed. ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, SOUTER, and BREYER, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J.......
  • Williams v. Warden, Federal Bureau of Prisons, No. 11–13306.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • 11 Abril 2013
    ...Court's denial of a COA. Only after both Williams's direct appeal and his collateral attack did this Court decide United States v. James, 430 F.3d 1150 (11th Cir.2005), aff'd,550 U.S. 192, 127 S.Ct. 1586, and United States v. Matthews, 466 F.3d 1271, 1275–76 (11th Cir.2006), which held that......
  • Williams v. Warden, Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 11-13306
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 11 Abril 2013
    ...Court's denial of a COA. Only after both Williams's direct appeal and his collateral attack did this Court decide United States v. James, 430 F.3d 1150 (11th Cir. 2005), aff'd, 550 U.S. 192, and United States v. Matthews, 466 F.3d 1271, 1275-76 (11th Cir. 2006), which held that attempted bu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
87 cases
  • Gasparotto v. United States, CASE NO.: 16-22306-CV-SEITZ
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • 14 Diciembre 2018
    ...v. Hale, 705 Fed. Appx. 876, 879 (11th Cir. 2017), cert. den'd, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1030 (2018) (quoting United States v. James, 430 F.3d 1150, 1155 (11th Cir. 2005) (rejecting thePage 21 argument that the statutory offense must have as an element an intent to manufacture or distribute......
  • James v. United States, No. 05–9264.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 18 Abril 2007
    ...Sixth Amendment issues under [127 S.Ct. 1590]Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435, lacks merit. P. 1600. 430 F.3d 1150, affirmed. ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, SOUTER, and BREYER, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J.......
  • Williams v. Warden, Federal Bureau of Prisons, No. 11–13306.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • 11 Abril 2013
    ...Court's denial of a COA. Only after both Williams's direct appeal and his collateral attack did this Court decide United States v. James, 430 F.3d 1150 (11th Cir.2005), aff'd,550 U.S. 192, 127 S.Ct. 1586, and United States v. Matthews, 466 F.3d 1271, 1275–76 (11th Cir.2006), which held that......
  • Williams v. Warden, Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 11-13306
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 11 Abril 2013
    ...Court's denial of a COA. Only after both Williams's direct appeal and his collateral attack did this Court decide United States v. James, 430 F.3d 1150 (11th Cir. 2005), aff'd, 550 U.S. 192, and United States v. Matthews, 466 F.3d 1271, 1275-76 (11th Cir. 2006), which held that attempted bu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT