Fourth Circuit: NC Voluntary Manslaughter is a Violent Felony Per the ACCA

United States v. Antoine Darrell Smith (No. 17-4015)

Smith pled guilty to one count of PWID cocaine, and one count of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. Smith’s PSI indicated that he was subject to enhanced penalties under the ACCA, due in part to his North Carolina conviction for voluntary manslaughter. Smith argued that the NC statute authorizes conviction for mere negligence or recklessness, and therefore it cannot give rise to ACCA enhancement. After the district court rejected this argument, Smith raises it before the Fourth Circuit.

The Fourth Circuit rejects Smith’s reasoning, holding that the NC statute does not permit conviction simply for negligent or reckless conduct. The court notes that “what separates voluntary manslaughter from murder is not the absence of intent but rather the circumstances in which that intent is exercised, namely, as we have noted, in the heat of passion or under provocation.” The court concludes by stating: “Simply put, voluntary manslaughter in North Carolina requires an intentional killing. It thus plainly involves ‘the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.'” The lower court’s ruling is therefore affirmed.

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