US v. Dennis Rice, No. 19-4489 (4th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Defendant pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g), which prohibits a felon from possessing a firearm. Prior to sentencing, the Probation Office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”). The PSR concluded that Defendant’s previous North Carolina conviction for felony assault inflicting physical injury by strangulation was a crime of violence that enhanced Defendant’s base offense level under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Defendant’s prior conviction stemmed from an incident where he put “his hand around [a woman’s] neck and squeez[ed]. Defendant objected to the enhancement, arguing that assault by strangulation is not a crime of violence. The district court disagreed with Defendant and imposed the enhancement.
Defendant appealed his sentence and the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and held that North Carolina crime of assault inflicting physical injury by strangulation is a crime of violence under the categorical approach. The court explained that North Carolina’s crime of assault by strangulation can only be committed with an intentional, knowing or purposeful state of mind. As such, it satisfies the mens rea required to qualify as a crime of violence.