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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ind. Courts - 7th Circuit decision in Indiana case from August 24th

Here is a decision the ILB missed yesterday. In US v. Hudson (ND Ind., Miller), an 11-page opinion, Judge Wood writes:

This case raises a surprisingly complicated question: under the Sentencing Guidelines, are crimes involving phony versions of illegal drugs properly characterized as “controlled-substance offenses”? Irvin Hudson pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm as a felon and possession of a stolen firearm. Hudson’s recommended sentence under the guidelines depends on the nature of his previous offense: if his earlier conviction amounted to a “controlled-substance offense,” then the guidelines would recommend a longer sentence. Before he was caught with the gun, Hudson had been convicted in the Indiana state courts of the crime of dealing in a substance represented to be a controlled substance (marijuana)—a so-called “look-alike” drug offense. The district court concluded that Hudson’s Indiana conviction qualified as a controlled-substance offense, calculated the guidelines range on that basis, and sentenced him to a within-guidelines sentence of 72 months’ imprisonment. Hudson appeals his sentence to this court.

This appeal turns on how to classify Indiana’s lookalike drug crimes. The Sentencing Guidelines specifically define controlled-substance offenses to include crimes related to controlled substances or “counterfeit substances.” The district court and the government rely on the plain meaning of “counterfeit” to sweep in Hudson’s look-alike offense. Hudson responds that look-alikes literally are neither controlled substances nor counterfeit substances. He observes that different parts of the guidelines, federal drug laws, and Indiana law define the term “counterfeit substance” in a manner that would not include faux marijuana. Those provisions limit the definition of “counterfeit substance” to controlled substances that bear false designations of source and thus appear to have been legitimately manufactured or distributed, rather like the apocryphal “Rolex” watches that can be bought on some streets for $10 apiece. Although Hudson’s argument gives us pause, we join our sister circuits in the view that “look-alike” offenses constitute controlled-substance offenses for sentencing purposes.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 25, 2010 03:34 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions