Fourth Circuit: W.Va. Unlawful Wounding is a “Crime of Violence” for §4B1.2 Purposes

US v. Donald Covington (No. 17-4120)

Covington pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin. His PSR classified him as a career offender based on his two prior felony convictions. At issue in this appeal is his prior conviction for “unlawful wounding” under West Virginia law. The district court found that the latter conviction was not a crime of violence, and therefore Covington was not subject to an enhanced sentence as a career offender (reducing his sentence from roughly 12.5 years down to 18-24 months).

The government appealed Covington’s sentence, arguing that the district court erred in concluding that unlawful wounding is not a crime of violence. The Fourth Circuit holds that unlawful wounding categorically qualifies as a crime of violence under the force clause of §4B1.2. The Fourth Circuit criticizes the district court’s consideration of “hypothetical scenarios” in which a defendant might indirectly cause harm in violation of the West Virginia statute without using “force.” The Fourth Circuit reverses and remands the case for resentencing.

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