Eleventh Circuit Holds That "Inchoate Offenses" Like Conspiracy Do Not Qualify As "Controlled Substance Offenses" Under the Career Offender Guideline
In United States v. Dupree, No. 19-13776, at *23 (11th Cir. Jan. 18, 2023), the Eleventh Circuit held that inchoate offenses like conspiracy do not qualify as "controlled substance offenses" for the purposes of the career offender enhancement under § 4B1.1(a) of the Sentencing Guidelines.
“Inchoate crimes involve "[a] step toward the commission of another crime, the step in itself being serious enough to merit punishment." Inchoate Offense, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). "The three inchoate offenses are attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation." Id.” United States v. Dupree, No. 19-13776, at *5 n.1 (11th Cir. Jan. 18, 2023).
Dupree argued that the definition of "controlled substance offense" in § 4B1.2(b) unambiguously excludes inchoate offenses, and the court should not defer to the commentary's broader definition, which includes such offenses. The Eleventh Circuit agreed with Dupree, relying on the framework established by the Supreme Court for determining the impact of the Guidelines' commentary on their interpretation.
“We begin, as Kisor instructs, with the text of § 4B1.2. After applying our traditional tools of statutory interpretation, we conclude that the plain language definition of "controlled substance offense" in § 4B1.2 unambiguously excludes inchoate offenses.” Id.; citing Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S.Ct. 2400 (2019).
The Eleventh Circuit held that the definition of "controlled substance offense" in § 4B1.2(b) does not include inchoate offenses like conspiracy and attempt. To the extent that this holding conflicts with the prior precedent set in Weir and Smith, the Eleventh Circuit overruled that precedent.
Under today's holding, Dupree's conviction for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine in violation of § 846 is not a controlled substance offense because the plain text of § 4B1.2(b) unambiguously excludes inchoate crimes. Dupree must be resentenced without application of the career offender enhancement.
United States v. Dupree, No. 19-13776, at *22 (11th Cir. Jan. 18, 2023).
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