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Criminal Practice – Supervised Release Revocation – Crime of Violence – Domestic Violence – Sentencing

By: S.C. Lawyers Weekly staff//June 2, 2023

Criminal Practice – Supervised Release Revocation – Crime of Violence – Domestic Violence – Sentencing

By: S.C. Lawyers Weekly staff//June 2, 2023

Defendant has failed to show plain error in the district court’s classification of South Carolina second-degree domestic violence as “a crime of violence” under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Defendant makes no argument that the explicit language of South Carolina’s domestic violence statute, S.C. Code Ann. § 16-25-20 resolves the question. He also concedes that “caselaw in South Carolina”—to which federal courts must look to interpret this state statute—“does not seem to clarify the matter.” Accordingly, we need not decide whether the district court’s “crime of violence” determination was legal error. We hold only that any error was not “clear or obvious” and that Smith defendant is thus ineligible for relief under the plain-error standard.

We affirm the district court’s revocation of defendant’s supervised release and the sentence imposed.

The district court’s exchange with defendant about previous violent incidents showed its consideration of relevant 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors, such as protecting the public and the need for deterrence. In addition, defendant’s request for leniency because he maintained a home and job while on supervision and had no other serious violations is both persuasively weak and factually dubious; indeed, defendant was before the court for three distinct violations of his release conditions.

The district court’s sentence was imposed after it found defendant committed a serious violation—a conclusion it reached from hearing testimony about how defendant beat and choked his girlfriend and seeing photographs of her injuries. Under these circumstances, the notion that having to explain its analysis further might have changed the district court’s mind is simply unrealistic.

United States v. Smith (Lawyers Weekly No. 003-019-23, 5 pp.) (Per Curiam) No. 21-4157. Appealed from USDC at Greenville, S.C. (Henry Herlong, S.J.) Jill HaLevi for appellant; Rhett DeHart and Leesa Washington for appellee. United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (unpublished)

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