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United States v. Walker

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

May 24, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
DEAN WASHINGTON WALKER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: March 24, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Columbia. Cameron McGowan Currie, Senior District Judge. (3:15-cr-00827-CMC-1)

         ARGUED:

          Kimberly Harvey Albro, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellant.

          William E. Day, II, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Florence, South Carolina, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Beth Drake, Acting United States Attorney, Jimmie Ewing, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellee.

          Before TRAXLER and WYNN, Circuit Judges, and DAVIS, Senior Circuit Judge.

          TRAXLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Dean Washington Walker, a native of Jamaica, pleaded guilty to illegal re-entry after being convicted of an aggravated felony. See 8 U.S.C. § 1326(b)(2). At sentencing, the district court concluded that Walker's prior drug conviction in Ohio qualified as a "drug trafficking offense, " and the district court therefore applied the 16-level enhancement called for by the then-current version of U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(i) (2015). With the 16-level enhancement, Walker's offense level was 21, which, when combined with his category III criminal history, yielded an advisory sentencing range of 46-57 months. The district court varied downward and sentenced Walker to 30 months' imprisonment.

         Walker appeals, challenging only the application of the 16-level enhancement. Finding no error, we affirm.

         I.

         To determine whether a prior conviction qualifies as a predicate offense under § 2L1.2, we apply the categorical approach, comparing the elements of the underlying offense to the federal definition. See, e.g., United States v. Alfaro, 835 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2016). If the elements of the underlying offense "correspond[] in substance" to the federal definition, Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 599 (1990), the underlying offense categorically qualifies for the enhancement.

         In 2004, Walker pleaded guilty to a charge of drug trafficking under Ohio law. The statute under ...


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