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Florida crime of false imprisonment is a crime of violence under the 18 U.S.C. §924(e) mandatory minimum enhancement

In U.S. v. Schneider, the defendant at age 71 had the misfortune of selling oxycodone pills to an undercover police officer. Things for him got worse when his federal sentence was enhanced the statutory mandatory minimum 15 years because he was caught with a pistol and charged with possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) a defendant with three or more priors for crimes of violence or drug offense faces a 15 year mandatory sentence if convicted of a firearm possession. The sentencing judge determined Schneider qualified for the enhancement because it counted a 25 year old Florida false imprisonment conviction as a crime of violence.

Schneider argued his Florida false imprisonment conviction should not be treated as a crime of violence under 924(e) because the language constituting a violation included “secretly confining” and did not necessarily require violence but could take place in the context of a nonviolent white collar crime. Under the Florida law False imprisonment means forcibly, by threat, or secretly confining, abducting, imprisoning, or restraining another person without lawful authority and against her or his will.”

Applying the analysis set forth by the Supreme Court in Sykes v. U.S., the 11th Circuit found the Florida was a crime of violence. Under Sykes a crime qualifies as a crime of violence under the residual clause of §924(e) if it categorically poses a serious potential risk of physical injury that is similar to the risk posed by one of the enumerated crimes in the statute. The 11th Circuit reached the same conclusion in an earlier case, U.S. v. Chitwood, where the court held that the Georgia false imprisonment was a crime of violence. Though the Georgia statutes lacked the “secretly confining” provision found in the Florida statute, 11th Circuit reached the same conclusion as in Chitwood. The court found that the Florida false imprisonment crime possesses a potential risk of physical injury. It cited examples of Florida cases where the term “secretly” was defined in the context of kidnapping or abducting of a victim who was unaware that he or she was being abducted such as a victim secretly separated from a location in order to commit rape or molestation. Used in this context, the court determined that if a victim is likely to realize he or she is being secretly abducted, the victim could suffer injury from trying to escape from a perpetrator. As Sykes held, the injury need not be from the force applied by the perpetrator.