Brief filed: 01/03/2022
Hardin v. United States
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 21-829
This case presents the question of whether a defendant's prior conviction for statutory rape under a state law that criminalizes consensual sexual conduct between a 21-year-old and a 17-year-old can subject that defendant to a mandatory 15-year minimum sentence. Last year, the Ninth Circuit considered this question and answered "no." See United States v. Jaycox, 962 F.3d 1066. But in the decision below, the Fourth Circuit answered "yes." See Pet.App.12a-14a. In doing so, the Fourth Circuit increased Petitioner Hardin's mandatory minimum sentence from 5 years to 15 years and doubled the statutory maximum he faces from 20 years to 40. The Court should resolve this clear circuit split, which could subject hundreds of persons per year to thousands more collective years in prison based solely on geographical happenstance. As the petition explains, the Fourth Circuit's decision misinterprets the [*5] relevant statutory term--18 U.S.C. § 2252A (b)(1)'s mandatory sentencing enhancement for prior convictions "relating to . . . abusive sexual conduct involving a minor"--and distorts this Court's settled method for applying the categorical approach to sentencing enhancements. The result is a decision holding conduct that is legal in 39 States and the District of Columbia to be categorically "abusive sexual conduct" under a federal law that subjects a defendant to a 15-year mandatory minimum.
Shana-Tara O’Toole, Due Process Institute, Washington, DC; Jeffrey T. Green, NACDL, Washington DC; Jamie Crooks, Alexander Rose, Eric Chianese, Fairmark Partners LLP, Washington, DC.