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District Judge: 2nd Deg. Assault NOT a Crime of Violence

By Justin Brown 8 years agoNo Comments

Federal Criminal Defense Baltimore, Maryland

Judge Deborah Chasanow, a United States District Judge in the District of Maryland, has held that that a conviction under Maryland’s second-degree assault statute does not count as a crime of violence for purposes of a sentencing enhancement. In the case, United States v. Barrett Allen West, Judge Chasanow built upon the foundation laid by the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Gomez, which held that a similar statute could not be considered as a crime of violence.

The issue is a technical one — explained more thoroughly below in a blog entry about Gomez — but it could have sweeping consequences if more federal judges follow Judge Chasanow’s lead.  Every year dozens of federal defendants in Maryland receive harsh sentences based on their prior records — they are categorized as either career offenders or armed career criminals. Oftentimes these sentencing enhancements are based upon one or more conviction for second-degree assault. Sometimes second-degree assault can be for a very minor infraction, such as a pushing match between two family members. However, it can have a disproportionate effect on a federal sentence, even if it happened more than a decade ago. Sometimes one second-degree assault conviction is the difference between a five-year federal sentence and a 15-year sentence.

If Judge Chasanow’s ruling sticks, many defendants will benefit, including, perhaps, those who have already received a harsh federal sentence. It is worth noting that Judge Chasanow is currently the chief judge of the district, and is widely regarded on the bench.


 Justin Brown

  (64 articles)

Justin Brown is a trial attorney based in Baltimore, Maryland. He has tried criminal and civil cases in state district court, state circuit court, and the United States District Court for Maryland. He has argued appeals before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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