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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, remanding for resentencing

In USA v. Matthew Elder (SD Ind., Young), an 11-page opinion, Judge Manion writes:

Matthew Elder was convicted for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment. He now appeals his conviction and sentence. For the reasons that follow, we af‐ firm Elder’s conviction but vacate his sentence and remand for resentencing. * * *

Under § 841’s “three strikes” provision, a person who con‐ spires to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine must be sentenced to life in prison if he has previously been convicted of two or more felony drug offenses. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). For purposes of § 841, a prior offense is a “fel‐ ony drug offense” only if, among other things, it is “punisha‐ ble by imprisonment for more than one year.” 21 U.S.C. § 802 (44). Although Elder’s 1997 offense of conviction—possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13‐3415(A)—is presently punishable by imprisonment for more than one year, the offense carried a one‐year maximum sentence at the time of Elder’s conviction in 1997. Compare Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13‐702(D) (effective Jan. 1, 2009), with Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13‐701(C) (amended Jan. 1, 2009). As a consequence, Elder’s 1997 conviction was not a conviction for a felony drug offense within the meaning of § 841, and the district court’s finding to the contrary was plainly erroneous. The government agrees and correctly concedes that the man‐ datory life sentence was improper. We therefore vacate Elder’s sentence and remand for a complete resentencing in conform‐ ity with this opinion.

III. CONCLUSION Forthe foregoing reasons, we affirm Elder’s conviction but vacate his sentence and remand for resentencing consistent with this opinion. AFFIRMED IN PART; VACATED AND REMANDED IN PART.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 25, 2016 02:06 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions