United States v. Al-Muwwakkil, No. 18-6201 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 2001, defendant was convicted of one count of possessing a firearm as a felon and sentenced under the heightened penalties of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) based on then uncontested proof that he had at least three violent felony convictions. After the Supreme Court's ruling in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), defendant filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion contending that he had been improperly sentenced as an armed career criminal and sought resentencing without the ACCA's enhanced penalties.
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the section 2255 motion, holding that defendant's 1971 conviction for attempted rape, in violation of Va. Code Ann. 18.1-44, does not qualify as a violent felony under the ACCA's force clause and cannot be used to support his ACCA-based conviction. The court explained that every conviction for section 18.1-44 does not necessarily involve a use of force sufficient to satisfy the ACCA's force clause. The court also held that defendant's 1990 burglary conviction does not qualify as an ACCA predicate under the force clause. The court took no position on the substantive question of whether defendant's conviction for use of a firearm during an abduction qualifies as an ACCA violent felony. The court remanded with instructions for the district court to consider the parties' arguments in the first instance.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on December 28, 2020.