United States v. Rodriquez


The Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA) provides for an increased sentence, with a mandatory minimum of fifteen years, for felons convicted of firearm possession if the offender has three prior convictions for specified types of crimes. These crimes include state drug offenses punishable by a maximum prison term of ten years or more. This case considers whether a state drug offense still qualifies as an ACCA predicate offense if it is punishable by a maximum ten-year sentence only because of sentence increases based on the offender's status as a repeat offender.

Oral argument: 
January 15, 2008

The Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA), applies to felons convicted of firearms possession who have previously been convicted of three or more serious crimes, including state drug offenses with a maximum sentence of ten or more years. A federal district court sentenced Gino Rodriquez to 92 months' imprisonment after a jury found him guilty of possessing a firearm as a felon. The Government appealed, arguing the court should have applied the ACCA, which requires a minimum fifteen-year sentence. The ACCA does not tell federal judges how to determine what the maximum possible sentence for an underlying crime was under state law. The Government argues that when a crime is committed by a repeat offender, or "recidivist," at the time of their prior conviction, the court should include in the maximum any sentence enhancements imposed based on the offender's recidivism. Rodriquez argues the maximum sentence should be only the statutory maximum for the crime charged, excluding such enhancements. The sentence in question here is a 1995 drug conviction Rodriquez received under Washington State law. The Government said the conviction qualified as an ACCA predicate because in 1995 Rodriquez was a repeat offender and Washington law provided a ten-year peak sentence for such offenders. The district court ruled that Ninth Circuit