By: Kelsey Kolb

Friday, in United States v. Stewart, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court for the District of Maryland’s 180-month armed career criminal sentence against Stewart. Stewart pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (2012), to which the district court attached the 180-month sentence, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (2012).

Did the district court err in its imposition of both a statutory mandatory minimum and increased statutory maximum sentence?

Stewart contended that the district court’s imposition of the statutory mandatory minimum sentence was in direct conflict with 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) (2012), which mandates the court to impose a sentence that is “sufficient but not greater than necessary.” Stewart further appealed his statutory maximum sentence, arguing that the district court violated his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights by increasing his sentence based on facts that were neither charged on the indictment, nor submitted to the jury.

The § 924(e) mandatory minimum does not conflict with the sentencing mandate of § 3553(a).

The Fourth Circuit held that § 3553(a) was not controlling in this case and thus, that the mandatory minimum was proper. The court reasoned that 18 U.S.C. § 3551(a) only yields to § 3553(a), the general criminal sentencing provision, if there is no other specific mandatory sentencing provision on point. Consequently, the “no greater than necessary” language from § 3553(a) would not apply in this case since there was another specific provision on point, § 924(e). Furthermore, even if § 3553(a) were controlling in this case, the court reasoned that the “no greater than necessary” language does not authorize a district court to sentence below the mandatory statutory minimum.

The increased statutory maximum sentence is not in violation of Stewart’s Fifth or Sixth Amendment rights.

The court briefly held that this claim was foreclosed by Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U.S. 224, 228–35 (1998).