Nordahl v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
In 2013, the State of Georgia indicted Blane Nordahl on three counts of burglary, four counts of first-degree burglary, and a single count of criminal attempt to commit burglary. The State notified Nordahl that it intended to seek recidivist punishment pursuant to OCGA 17-10-7 (a) and (c), based on his prior out-of-state and federal felony convictions. Nordahl entered a non-negotiated guilty plea to the Georgia charges in 2017, but he challenged the State’s request for recidivist punishment, arguing, inter alia, that his federal conviction for conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce was not a crime that would be a felony if committed in Georgia. The trial court rejected Nordahl’s argument and sentenced him as a recidivist. The Georgia Supreme Court granted review in this case to consider whether the Court of Appeals erred in applying a “conduct” approach when analyzing whether a prior out-of-state or federal conviction is for a crime that would be a felony if committed in Georgia and would, therefore, support enhanced punishment under OCGA 17-10-7 (a) and (c). The Court determined the Court of Appeals’ “conduct” approach violated the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and had to be disapproved. Nevertheless, after applying the “elements-only” or “modified categorical” approach to analyzing the prior federal conviction used to support the recidivist sentence at issue in this appeal, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment under the right-for-any-reason doctrine.