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Ninth Circuit: Use/Carrying Explosive Not Crime of Violence for 924(c) Purposes: Matthews

In Matthews, the 9th Circuit Determined that Use/ Carrying of Explosives is not a crime of violence for 924c purposes,

United States v. Matthews, 19-56110 (9th Cir.)

Matthews was convicted of maliciously damaging or destroying property by means of an explosive, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 844(i); and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Per statute, an explosive device qualifies as a “firearm” under 924(c), and required a mandatory 30-year consecutive sentence. Matthews was sentenced to 495 months imprisonment, 360 months of which were for the firearm conviction.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 2319 (2019), Matthews filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion arguing that a conviction for carrying an explosive device under 18 U.S.C. 844(i) is not a crime of violence under Section 924(c)(3)(A). The district court concluded that the property-damage conviction was a crime of violence under 924(c)(3) and denied Matthews’ 2255 motion. Specifically, the district court found that it was bound by the Ninth Circuit’s prior decision in Matthews’ direct appeal stating that Congress intended for 844(i) to be a crime of violence under 924(c).

Matthews appealed the 2255 denial to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. To determine whether a conviction under 844(i) qualifies as a crime of violence, the court applied the categorical approach to the statute. Using the categorical approach, if any conduct that falls within the purview of the statute is not a crime of violence, then the statute categorically fails to qualify as a crime of violence.

The Ninth Circuit held that Matthews’ property-damage conviction is not categorically a crime of violence and cannot serve as a predicate for a 924(c) conviction. The court noted that a person can be convicted under Section 844(i) for using an explosive to destroy his or her own property, and that such conduct falls outside the definition of a crime of violence in 924(c)(3)(A).

In so holding, the Ninth Circuit has joined the Fourth, Sixth, and Tenth Circuits in concluding that 844(i) is not a crime of violence for 924(c) purposes. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Matthews’ 2255 motion and remanded with instructions to vacate Matthews’ 924(c) conviction and resentence him accordingly.

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