United States v. Havis, No. 17-5772 (6th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Havis pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). He had a lengthy criminal record. The district court concluded that his 20-year-old state conviction for selling or delivering cocaine was a “controlled substance offense” under the Guidelines and increased his base offense level. Havis objected, arguing that delivering cocaine does not qualify as a “controlled substance offense” and that it was unclear whether his state conviction was for delivery or sale. The district court rejected this argument, citing the Sixth Circuit’s prior holding that any violation of the Tennessee statute at issue is a controlled substance offense. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, applying the categorical approach: the court did not examine the facts of Havis’s actual misconduct but relied on the elements of drug delivery under Tennessee law. The court’s precedential interpretation of the Guidelines’s definition of “controlled substance offense” included attempts to commit the offense. The court acknowledged that the precedential opinion’s reliance on commentary to the Guidelines was problematic, but concluded that it was bound by precedent and rejected an argument that the Tennessee statute was overbroad.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on April 18, 2019.