Any fact that increases the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime is an element and must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. Alleyne, however, did not change the rule announced in Almendarez-Torres v. United States that the fact of a prior conviction need not be alleged in the indictment or proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
On March 27, 2010, Sarah Portis called 911 at around 7:45 PM asking that police come to her residence because her child's father (Darnell Boyce) had just hit her; she further asserted that Boyce had a gun in his possession. Within minutes, Officers Robert Cummings and Eugene Solomon responded to the 911 call. After a foot chase during which an officer said he saw Darnell Boyce throw a gun into a yard, officers recovered the gun from the area and also found ammunition for the gun in Boyce's pocket. Boyce was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and § 924(e)(1). A jury found Boyce guilty on both charged counts. The district court concluded that Boyce had three prior violent felonies or serious drug offenses that mandated a minimum term of fifteen years' imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Boyce appealed and maintained that his civil rights had been restored regarding his prior felony convictions before he possessed the gun and ammunition in this case, and, therefore, that he did not have a predicate felony for purposes of § 922(g)(1).
Did the district court err in its decision to convict Boyce in light of the circumstances present in the case?
The Court held that the district court did not err in its decision to convict Boyce. In its ruling, the Court asserted that Boyce’s motion to dismiss the indictment was properly denied because a letter to defendant restoring his civil rights did not do so for all his prior felonies since he offered no evidence that his parole revocation and unlawful use of a weapon sentences terminated on the same date. Furthermore, it was held that it was not an abuse of discretion to admit statements made by the mother of four of defendant's children during a 911 call as excited utterances under Fed. R. Evid. 803(2), because the statements were made while under the stress of a domestic battery and related to it. More importantly, the Court asserted that an enhanced sentencing penalty was proper under 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(e).