United States v. McDowell, Jr., No. 13-4370 (4th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Defendant appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to a drug and firearm offense. The court rejected defendant's contention that NCIC reports were categorically unreliable in light of the widespread use of the reports. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant's NCIC report, in addition to the corroboration provided by the Government, established the fact that defendant was convicted in 1971 of second degree assault by a preponderance of the evidence. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in applying the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard to establish the fact of his prior conviction where the Supreme Court has held in Almendarez-Torres v. United States that the Sixth Amendment permits a judge to find the fact of a prior conviction by a mere preponderance of the evidence, even if this fact raises the statutory maximum or minimum penalty for the current offense. Accordingly, the district court did not clearly err in concluding that defendant committed the 1971 assault and the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.