Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kansas drug convictions are not career-offender/ACCA predicates

Kansas convictions for selling drugs or possessing drugs with the intent to sell no longer qualify as "controlled substance" offenses under the career-offender guideline, the felon-in-possession guideline, or the ACCA. Kansas convictions for possessing with intent to sell may also not count under the illegal-reentry guideline.

Kansas law has defined a drug "sale" to include an "offer to sell" since the 1970s. This definition of sale appeared in caselaw and the PIK instructions for a long time, and is now part of the statutory definitions applicable to drug crimes. K.S.A. 21-5701(d); K.S.A. 21-5705. (Kansas has replaced the word "sell" with the word "distribute," but we will use the word "sell" here.)

This definition of sale applies whether the defendant is charged with "sale," "offer for sale," or "possession with intent to sell." In other words, three types of drug-trafficking (or "distribution") crimes might be charged in Kansas:

1. A drug sale (defined elsewhere to include an offer to sell);

2. An offer for sale (yes, redundant of #1, but there you have it); or

3. Possessing a drug with intent to sell (defined elsewhere to include an offer to sell). This third crime might include, for instance, fraudulent offers to sell; i.e., possession, intent to offer for sale, but no intent to carry out the sale.*

Last week, in United States v. Madkins, the Tenth Circuit held that none of these crimes may serve as career-offender predicates: "[A] conviction for possession with intent to sell a controlled substance—where sale is defined to include an offer—is broader than the conduct criminalized in § 4B1.2(a) and the authoritative commentary."

What to do after Madkins: 

1. Invoke Madkins to challenge the use of any Kansas drug-sale or possession-with-intent-to-sell convictions as career-offender predicates and any other predicate that cross-references § 4B1.2.

2. Invoke Madkins to challenge the use of these convictions as ACCA predicates (remember, those predicates must also have carried a max prison term of 10 or more years).

3. Invoke Madkins to challenge the use of any Kansas possession-with-intent-to-sell conviction to enhance an unlawful-reentry sentence under § 2L1.2. But note that this guideline is trickier. The commentary defines "drug trafficking offense" in this context to include an "offer to sell" or possession with intent to distribute. Does it cover possession with intent to offer for sale? We don't know, but it's definitely a live issue after Madkins.

*As the Tenth Circuit explained: "It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where a person possesses drugs and offers to sell them without ever intending to complete the transaction. For example, the would-be seller might extend an offer to sell marijuana to a would-be buyer. But the seller never intends to hand over the marijuana—instead, he plans to rob the would-be buyer and abscond with the money. In that situation, the offer would be fraudulent, because the offeror never intended to sell."


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