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Look-alike offense counts as controlled-substance offense in sentencing

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A previous conviction for a “look-alike” offense constitutes a controlled-substance offense for sentencing purposes, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the first time Tuesday.

Irvin Hudson challenged the District Court’s decision that Hudson’s previous conviction of dealing in a substance represented to be a controlled substance – a “look-alike” drug offense – qualified as a controlled-substance offense for calculating his sentence following his guilty plea to possession of a firearm as a felon and possession of a stolen firearm. By having a previous conviction for a controlled-substance offense, Hudson’s sentencing guideline would increase from a base level 14 to a base level 20.

Although the federal guideline sections don’t define the term “counterfeit substance,” there’s no reason why the guidelines must be restricted to a particular state’s concept of what is meant by that term, wrote Judge Diane Wood in United States of America v. Irvin S. Hudson, No. 09-3518. Other Circuit Courts have relied on dictionary definitions of “counterfeit” to find look-alike offenses qualify as a controlled-substance offense under the guidelines.

“Using an independent federal definition of the term thus supports the conclusion that Hudson was convicted of a controlled-substance offense for dealing counterfeit marijuana,” she wrote. "Counsel for Hudson presented a responsible argument, which has convinced some judges that look-alike offenses are not controlled-substance offenses. His position may be worth the attention of the Sentencing Commission or other courts. But, in the end, we are not persuaded.”

Judge Wood noted that at least four sister Circuits have adopted the government’s interpretation of the sentencing guidelines and classified look-alike offenses as controlled-substance offenses. The government also has a point when it argued that it would be nonsensical to punish the selling of controlled substances and mislabeled prescription drugs but not the selling of look-alikes, she noted.

“Given the natural meaning of ‘counterfeit’ and the overall purpose of the guidelines provisions, we decline to adopt Hudson’s narrow definition of ‘counterfeit offense’ as applied to U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1,” wrote Judge Wood.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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