Atlanta, Georgia - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with a possessing a firearm as a convicted felon charge.
In 2018, Dudley was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted
felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
The indictment noted that Dudley
had several prior Alabama felony convictions. Dudley did not object to the
indictment. Dudley subsequently pleaded guilty. In the written plea agreement,
Dudley admitted that he possessed a firearm during a gas station robbery after
being convicted previously of several Alabama felonies. The plea agreement did
not include the dates or any other details of Dudley’s prior felony convictions.
Prior to Dudley’s sentencing, the United States Probation Office prepared a
presentence investigation report (“PSI”), which indicated that Dudley had at least
three prior Alabama convictions that qualified as violent felonies for purposes of
2 The indictment did not reference 18 U.S.C. § 924(a), which provides that anyone who
“knowingly violates” § 922(g) shall be fined or imprisoned for up to 10 years. 18 U.S.C.
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the ACCA and were committed on different occasions from one another.
Specifically, the PSI detailed that Dudley was convicted on December 31, 2013, in
Alabama of two counts of second-degree assault in case no. 11-2012; three counts
of second-degree assault in case no. 11-2610; and one count of second-degree
assault in case no. 11-2366. According to the PSI, Dudley’s plea colloquy from
the Alabama combined plea proceeding indicated that the assaults in case no.
11-2012 occurred on May 8, 2011,3 the assaults in case no. 11-2610 occurred on
July 13, 2011, and the assault in case no. 11-2366 occurred on July 26, 2011.
Dudley’s resulting guidelines range was 188 to 235 months’ imprisonment. As a
result of the ACCA enhancement, Dudley faced a statutory minimum term of 15
years’ imprisonment and a maximum term of life imprisonment.
Dudley objected to the PSI, arguing, in relevant part, that the record was
insufficient for the court to determine that his prior Alabama convictions were for
offenses committed on occasions different from one another. Specifically, Dudley
contended that the state indictments did not include the dates of the offenses,5 and
3 Dudley’s PSI indicates a “jailed” date of May 13, 2011 for case no. 11-2012, but the
explanation included in the PSI indicates that the offense occurred on May 8, 2011.
4 Without the ACCA enhancement, § 922(g) carries a statutory maximum of ten years’
imprisonment. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2).
5 The Alabama indictments for Dudley’s prior offenses were each returned on different
dates but did not include the dates of the charged offenses. The lack of dates in the indictments
is not surprising because, under Alabama law, unless time is a material element of the offense,
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under Shepard v. United States, 544 U.S. 13, 26 (2005), the district court could
rely only on statements from his Alabama plea colloquy that he had expressly
confirmed during the colloquy. Thus, although the dates of the Alabama offenses
were discussed during his 2013 plea colloquy as part of the state’s factual proffer,
because Dudley was never asked whether he agreed with the factual proffer, he
maintained that the district court could not rely on this information when
conducting the different-occasions inquiry.
In response, the government acknowledged that the state indictments for the
Alabama offenses did not reference the dates of the crimes but argued that it could
demonstrate the dates via the 2013 Alabama plea colloquy. And the 2013 plea
colloquy established that Dudley did not object to the state’s factual proffer that the
offenses in question occurred on three different dates. The government maintained
that Dudley misread Shepard, and Shepard does not require that a defendant assent
the date on which an offense was committed need not be alleged in the indictment and a
defendant has no right to notice of this specific information. See Ala. Code § 15-8-30 (1975) (“It
is not necessary to state the precise time at which an offense was committed in an indictment . . .
unless time is a material ingredient of the offense.”); R.A.S. v. State, 718 So. 2d 117, 120 (Ala.
1998) (explaining that “in Alabama, clearly, the defendant has no right to notice of the specific
time or place of the alleged offense” (quotation omitted)). In Dudley’s case, the indictment in
case no. 11-2012 was returned August 29, 2011, and charged Dudley with, among other charges,
two counts of assault—one count accused Dudley of injuring another person with a spoon and
one count accused him of injuring another person by punching him in the face. The indictment
in case no. 11-2366 was returned September 29, 2011, and charged Dudley with assault by
beating a detention officer (among other charges). And the indictment in case no. 11-2610 was
returned November 3, 2011, and charged Dudley with three counts of assault—as a result of his
beating or hitting three detention officers.
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to a factual proffer in the plea colloquy before the factual proffer may be used to
prove a fact of a prior conviction.6
In support of its position, the government attached the transcript of Dudley’s
2013 Alabama plea colloquy. At the plea colloquy, Dudley was represented by
counsel and, after explaining to Dudley the rights he would be giving up if he
pleaded guilty, the state trial court asked the state prosecutor to explain the factual
basis for the pleas.
The prosecutor stated that with regard to case no. 11-2012, on
or about May 8, 2011, while in the county jail, Dudley, with the intent to cause
physical injury to another person, caused physical injury to another inmate by
means of a spoon, and he also punched Detention Officer Hall in the face. With
regard to case no. 11-2366, on or about July 26, 2011, Dudley assaulted Detention
6 The probation office ultimately agreed with the government’s position.
7 The trial court was required under Alabama law to confirm that there was a factual basis
before accepting Dudley’s guilty pleas. Specifically, Alabama Rule of Criminal Procedure 14.4,
which mirrors Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11, requires that a trial court not enter
judgment on a plea without confirming that there is a factual basis for the plea. See Ala. R.
Crim. P. 14.4(b) (“[T]he court shall not enter a judgment upon such plea without being satisfied
that there is a factual basis for the plea”). “The purpose of requiring the trial judge to determine
that there is a factual basis for the plea ‘is to ensure the accuracy of the plea through some
evidence that a defendant actually committed the offense.’” Alderman v. State, 615 So. 2d 640,
647 (Ala. Crim. App. 1992) (quoting United States v. Keiswetter, 860 F.2d 992, 995 (10th Cir.
1988)). “The only factual basis required for a guilty plea is that which will satisfy the court that
the appellant knows what he is pleading guilty to.” Id. (quoting Garner v. State, 455 So. 2d 939,
940 (Ala. Crim. App. 1984)). The Alabama court may satisfy this factual basis “requirement by
eliciting an in-court statement from the defendant, by an in-court statement from the district
attorney, or from evidence presented . . . .” G.E.G. v. State, 54 So. 3d 949, 955 (Ala. 2010)
(quotation omitted). “The district attorney’s assertions of what he expects the evidence to show
will suffice.” Id. at 956 (quotation omitted).
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Officer Gandy when Gandy was delivering breakfast to the pod in which Dudley
was housed. With regard to case no. 11-2610, on July 13, 2011, Dudley assaulted
Detention Officers Gandy, Chanell, and Little, when the officers came to check on
an inmate in the pod who was bleeding.
Following the initial factual proffer that included the dates of the offenses,
the state prosecutor asked “[d]id I miss anything” and Dudley’s counsel stated
“That’s it. You did cover jail credit?” The state court asked whether “[t]hese were
all separate incidents” and the prosecutor confirmed that they were. Dudley did
not object to this assertion. The state court then asked Dudley what his plea was as
to each respective case, and Dudley responded “guilty” three times, once for each
case. He also confirmed that he was pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty.
The trial court then found Dudley guilty and asked him whether he had “anything
to say before the [c]ourt pronounce[d] sentence,” and Dudley responded, “No, sir.”
Additionally, following pronouncement of sentence, the state court asked if there
was anything further, and Dudley’s counsel responded “Nothing further. Just for
transcript purposes, if you will—we can note on the record that that jail credit
applies to each and every case and every count.”
In reply to the government’s assertion that it could prove that his prior
offenses were committed on different occasions based on his 2013 Alabama plea
colloquy, Dudley reiterated his position that the record was insufficient to establish
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that his prior convictions were committed on different occasions because the state
trial court never asked him whether he agreed with the factual proffer and never
instructed Dudley to say whether he disagreed with anything said during the plea
At the federal sentencing hearing, Dudley reaffirmed his objection to the
ACCA enhancement. In particular, Dudley argued that his guilty plea to the state
offenses was an admission of the elements of the offenses, but not the dates of the
offenses, as dates are non-elemental facts about which the defendant has little
incentive to object and the district court was not permitted to rely on non-elemental
facts. The district court recognized that this case presented “a close call,” but it
concluded that the record supported the conclusion that the state offenses were
“separate occurrences.” The district court noted that Dudley had not objected
during the 2013 Alabama plea colloquy, and the indictments were separate and
“the grand jury took them up and true billed them.” Following consideration of
additional sentencing-related arguments, the district court imposed a withinguidelines 215-month sentence. This appeal followed.
II. Standards of Review
We review de novo whether prior offenses meet the ACCA’s differentoccasions requirement. United States v. Carter, 969 F.3d 1239, 1242 (11th Cir.
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2020). “We may affirm on any ground supported by the record.” Id. (quoting
Castillo v. United States, 816 F.3d 1300, 1303 (11th Cir. 2016)).
Dudley’s Rehaif-based challenge to his conviction, however, which he raises
for the first time on appeal, is reviewed only for plain error. United States v. Reed,
941 F.3d 1018, 1021 (11th Cir. 2019). To establish plain error, a defendant must
show: (1) an error; (2) that was obvious; (3) that affected the defendant’s
substantial rights; and (4) that seriously affected the fairness, integrity, or public
reputation of judicial proceedings. United States v. Olano, 507 U.S. 725, 734–37
(1993). “[W]e may consult the whole record when considering the effect of any
error on [Dudley’s] substantial rights.” Reed, 941 F.3d at 1021 (quoting United
States v. Vonn, 535 U.S. 55, 59 (2002)).
A. ACCA Challenge
Under the ACCA, a defendant convicted of possession of a firearm by a
convicted felon, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), is subject to a mandatoryminimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment if he “has three previous
convictions . . . for a violent felony or serious drug offense, or both, committed on
occasions different from one another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Thus, determining
whether a defendant qualifies for an ACCA enhancement involves a two-prong
inquiry: (1) whether the defendant has three prior convictions that each meet the
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ACCA’s definitions of a violent felony or a serious drug offense, and, if so,
(2) whether those predicate offenses were committed on different occasions from
Dudley does not contest the district court’s finding that his prior convictions
for Alabama assault qualify as violent felonies, so the only issue we must decide is
whether the district court erred under the second step of the inquiry, in determining
that Dudley’s prior convictions were committed on occasions different from one
another. Nevertheless, because some of Dudley’s arguments as to the proper
inquiry under the second step are inextricably intertwined with considerations
relevant to the initial predicate violent felony determination, we discuss both steps.
1. The predicate violent felony determination
The ACCA defines the term “violent felony” as any crime punishable by a
term of imprisonment exceeding one year that:
(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of
physical force against the person of another; or
(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or
otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of
physical injury to another.
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18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). Section 924(e)(2)(B)(i) contains the “elements clause,”
while subsection (ii) contains the “enumerated crimes” and the “residual clause.”8
United States v. Owens, 672 F.3d 966, 968 (11th Cir. 2012).
“To determine whether a state conviction qualifies as a violent felony under
the ACCA’s elements clause, [courts] employ a ‘categorical approach.’” United
States v. Oliver, 962 F.3d 1311, 1316 (11th Cir. 2020). The categorical approach
focuses solely on the statutory definition of the offense of conviction (i.e., the
elements of the offense of conviction), not the defendant’s underlying conduct (i.e.,
the facts). See Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 600 (1990); see also Mathis
v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243, 2248–49, 2251 (2016) (discussing the categorical
approach under the ACCA); Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254, 267–69
“‘Elements’ are the ‘constituent parts’ of a crime’s legal definition—the
things the ‘prosecution must prove to sustain a conviction.’” Mathis, 136 S. Ct. at
2248 (quoting Black’s Law Dictionary 634 (10th ed. 2014)). “Facts by contrast,
are mere real-world things—extraneous to the crime’s legal requirements.” Id. At
least in terms of the predicate felony determination under the ACCA, unlike
8 In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down the ACCA’s residual clause as
unconstitutionally vague. See Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 591, 597–602 (2015). In
holding that the residual clause was void for vagueness, the Court clarified that it did not call into
question the validity of the elements clause or the enumerated crimes clause. Id. at 606. Thus,
our discussion here focuses on the remaining two clauses—the elements clause and the
enumerated crimes clause.
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elements, facts “hav[e] no legal effect or consequence” and need not be proven by
a prosecutor, found by a jury, or admitted by a defendant. Id. (quotation omitted).
Accordingly, when examining whether a conviction qualifies as a violent
felony under the elements clause, the categorical approach requires that courts
focus only on the statutory elements and “presume that the conviction rested upon
the ‘least of the acts criminalized’ by the statute.” Oliver, 962 F.3d at 1316
(quoting Moncrieffe v. Holder, 569 U.S. 184, 190–91 (2013)). “If the ‘least of the
acts criminalized’ by the statute of conviction has an element requiring ‘the use,
attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another,’
then the offense categorically qualifies as a violent felony under the ACCA’s
elements clause.” Id. (quoting United States v. Davis, 875 F.3d 592, 597 (11th Cir.
Similarly, under the enumerated crimes clause, which only encompasses
prior convictions for “generic” versions of the offenses it lists, courts “compare the
elements of the statute forming the basis of the defendant’s conviction with the
elements of the ‘generic’ crime—i.e., the offense as commonly understood.”
Descamps, 570 U.S. at 257. The prior conviction qualifies under the enumerated
crimes clause “only if the statute’s elements are the same as, or narrower than,
those of the generic offense.” Id.
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Finally, when a statute of conviction is divisible, meaning it sets elements in
the alternative and defines multiple crimes, courts may use the modified
categorical approach and look beyond the statutory elements of the prior
conviction by considering Shepard-approved documents for the limited purpose of
ascertaining which of the alternative elements formed the basis of the defendant’s
conviction. Id. These Shepard-approved documents include the “charging
document, the terms of a plea agreement, or transcript of [plea] colloquy between
judge and defendant in which the factual basis for the plea was confirmed by the
defendant, or to some comparable judicial record of this information.” Shepard,
544 U.S. at 16, 26.9
Once the court determines which of the alternative statutory
9 In Shepard, the Supreme Court confirmed that guilty pleas could be the basis for an
ACCA predicate offense “and that Taylor’s reasoning controls the identification of generic
convictions following pleas.” 544 U.S. at 19. Thus, Shepard held that, where a district court is
confronted with a prior conviction from a state that has non-generic offenses, in order to
determine whether the defendant’s plea necessarily admitted elements of a generic offense, the
court is limited to certain judicial record evidence—charging instruments, terms of a plea
agreement, or “transcript of a plea colloquy between judge and defendant in which the factual
basis for the plea was confirmed by the defendant, or to some other comparable judicial record.”
Id. at 26. Contrary to the dissent’s contention, Shepard did not limit a sentencing court to “only
three sources.” Rather, although the Shepard court specified certain sources, it left open the
consideration of additional sources by specifying “some other comparable judicial record.” Id.
Dudley argues that a plea colloquy is not a Shepard-approved source unless the defendant
confirms the factual basis for the plea. We accept for the purposes of this opinion that he is
correct, and that the only way the district court could have relied on the prosecutor’s factual
statements from his Alabama plea colloquy was if there was evidence of his confirmation of
those statements. Nevertheless, we note that the Supreme Court used slightly different language
in the beginning of the Shepard opinion, stating that “a later court determining the character of [a
prior conviction] is generally limited to examining the statutory definition, charging document,
written plea agreement, transcript of plea colloquy, and any explicit factual finding by the trial
judge to which the defendant assented.” Id. at 16 (emphasis added). And post-Shepard, in every
Supreme Court case that has discussed or mentioned Shepard-approved sources, the Supreme
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elements formed the basis of defendant’s conviction, it “can then do what the
categorical approach demands: compare the elements of the crime of conviction
(including the alternative element used in the case) with the elements of the generic
crime” or examine whether the elements of the crime qualify under the elements
clause. Descamps, 570 U.S. at 257.
A great deal of litigation has ensued over the years regarding when a court
may use the modified categorical approach in conducting the predicate violent
felony inquiry. For instance, in Descamps, the Supreme Court held that district
courts could not apply the modified categorical approach when the crime of
conviction consists of a single, indivisible set of elements. Id. at 265. The Court
explained that applying the modified categorical approach to a statute involving a
single, indivisible set of elements “authorizes the court to try to discern what a trial
showed, or a plea proceeding revealed, about the defendant’s underlying
conduct,”—which is judicial factfinding that is prohibited by the Sixth
Amendment. Id. at 269–70 (discussing the interplay between the categorical
approach and Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 490 (2000), which held that,
under the Sixth Amendment, “[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact
Court has routinely referred generally to “plea colloquies” as Shepard-approved sources without
further qualification. See, e.g., Descamps, 570 U.S. at 262; Moncrieffe v. Holder, 569 U.S. 184,
191 (2013); Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 144 (2010); Nijhawan v. Holder, 557 U.S.
29, 36, 41 (2009); Chambers v. United States, 555 U.S. 122, 126 (2009), abrogated in part by
Johnson, 559 U.S. at 133; Gonzales v. Duenas-Alvarez, 549 U.S. 183, 187 (2007).
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that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum
must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt”). The
Descamps Court emphasized that the categorical approach avoids the Sixth
Amendment concerns identified in Apprendi by focusing on the elements of the
crime of conviction, which are necessarily admitted as part of a guilty plea and
does not permit consideration of non-elemental facts—extraneous information that
the defendant may have little incentive to contest—to increase a defendant’s
maximum sentence. Id. at 270.
Subsequently, in Mathis, the Supreme Court held that the modified
categorical approach could not be applied to determine whether a prior conviction
qualified as a violent felony predicate where a statute of conviction was indivisible
and merely identified multiple “means” of committing a crime, rather than
“elements.” 136 S. Ct. at 2253. The Court emphasized that applying the modified
categorical approach to determine the means by which a defendant committed the
prior crime would require consideration of non-elemental facts and result in
impermissible judicial fact-finding in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Id. at
Thus, at least for purposes of the first step in the ACCA inquiry—whether a
prior offense of conviction qualifies as a violent felony—the law is crystal clear
that facts simply do not matter, even when the defendant expressly confirmed or
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assented to those facts. Id.; see also Descamps, 570 U.S. at 260–65; Taylor, 495
U.S. at 600. But notably, Taylor, Shepard, Descamps, and Mathis, upon which
Dudley and the dissent rely, all focused solely on the predicate felony stage of the
ACCA inquiry—in particular whether the prior offense of conviction qualified as a
violent felony. None of those cases addressed the second step of the ACCA
inquiry—whether the predicate qualifying violent felonies were committed on
different occasions from one another—which we confront in this case. Indeed, the
Supreme Court has never squarely addressed the different-occasions inquiry.
And it is this latter step that Dudley challenges in the instant appeal.
Accordingly, we must examine the different-occasions inquiry and Dudley’s
argument that the district court erred in determining that his predicate violent
felony state convictions were committed on different occasions from one another.
2. The Different-Occasions Inquiry
The ACCA’s different-occasions language refers expressly to three previous
qualifying predicate convictions that were “committed on occasions different from
one another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). To qualify as offenses committed on
different occasions from one another under the ACCA, the offenses must be
“temporally distinct” and arise from “separate and distinct criminal episode[s].”
United States v. Sneed, 600 F.3d 1326, 1329 (11th Cir. 2010) (quotation omitted).
The government bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence
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that the prior convictions “more likely than not arose out of ‘separate and distinct
criminal episode[s].’” United States v. McCloud, 818 F.3d 591, 595–96 (11th Cir.
2016) (alteration in original) (quoting Sneed, 600 F.3d at 1329).
Unlike the predicate felony determination, which focuses solely on the
statutory legal elements, the different-occasions inquiry necessarily “requires
looking at the facts underlying the prior convictions.” United States v. Richardson,
230 F.3d 1297, 1299 (11th Cir. 2000), abrogated in part by Sneed, 600 F.3d at
1332 (recognizing that while Shepard abrogated Richardson’s approval of the use
of police reports to determine whether prior convictions were committed on
different occasions, “Richardson remains correct” that the different occasions
inquiry requires looking at the facts underlying the conviction); see also United
States v. King, 853 F.3d 267, 273 (6th Cir. 2017) (“As opposed to the ACCA’s
language pertaining to the predicate [violent felony] question, its differentoccasions language does focus on the defendant’s conduct: it asks courts to
determine whether prior offenses were ‘committed’ on different occasions.”).
Nevertheless, although the different-occasions inquiry requires a court to
look at the facts underlying the prior conviction, in order to avoid constitutional
concerns, we have held that the court is limited to Shepard-approved sources, as
only information found in such conclusive judicial records has gone through a
validation process that comports with the Sixth Amendment. Sneed, 600 F.3d at
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1332–33. As long as a court limits itself to Shepard-approved sources, the court
“may determine both the existence of prior convictions and the factual nature of
those convictions, including whether they were committed on different occasions,”
“based on its own factual findings.” United States v. Weeks, 711 F.3d 1255, 1259–
60 (11th Cir. 2013), abrogated on other grounds by Descamps, 570 U.S. 254; see
also United States v. Overstreet, 713 F.3d 627, 635–36 (11th Cir. 2013) (reiterating
that “a district court ‘ha[s] the authority to apply the ACCA enhancement based on
its own factual findings’ that the defendant’s offenses were committed on
occasions different from one another” (quotations omitted)). Furthermore, in
determining whether a defendant’s prior convictions were committed on different
occasions from one another, a district court may rely on “non-elemental facts”
contained in the Shepard-approved sources. See United States v. Longoria, 874
F.3d 1278, 1282–83 (11th Cir. 2017).
Finally, like many of our sister circuits, we have repeatedly rejected the
argument that judicially determining whether prior convictions were committed on
different occasions from one another for purposes of the ACCA violates a
defendant’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. See id. at 1283 (explaining that
under Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U.S. 224, 226–27 (1998),10 which
10 Specifically, in Almendarez–Torres, the Supreme Court held that, for sentencing
enhancement purposes, a judge, rather than a jury, may determine “the fact of a prior
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remains good law, district courts may determine the factual nature of a prior
conviction, including whether offenses of conviction were committed on different
occasions from one another, without violating the Fifth and Sixth Amendments);
Weeks, 711 F.3d at 1259 (same); see also United States v. Morris, 293 F.3d 1010,
1012–13 (6th Cir. 2002) (holding that the ACCA’s different-occasions
determination falls within the Almendarez-Torres and Apprendi exceptions);
United States v. Harris, 447 F.3d 1300, 1303–04 (10th Cir. 2006) (holding that “all
three elements of the ACCA”—(1) the number of prior convictions, (2) whether a
prior conviction qualifies as a violent felony, and (3) whether prior convictions
occurred on different occasions from one another—are properly determined by a
sentencing court and such determinations do not violate Apprendi); United States
v. Thompson, 421 F.3d 278, 285–86 (4th Cir. 2005) (holding that judicial
conviction.” 523 U.S. at 226–27. Thereafter, in Apprendi, the Supreme Court held that, under
the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the notice and jury trial guarantees of the
Sixth Amendment, “[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty
for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved
beyond a reasonable doubt.” 530 U.S. at 490. Nevertheless, as is evident from the language of
Apprendi’s holding, Apprendi did not alter the pre-existing rule from Almendarez–Torres.
Subsequently, in Alleyne v. United States, the Supreme Court extended Apprendi and held that
any facts that increase a mandatory minimum sentence must be submitted to a jury and proved
beyond a reasonable doubt. 570 U.S. 99, 116 (2013). But in so holding, the Supreme Court
expressly declined to alter the Almendarez–Torres rule. Id. at 111 n. 1 (“Because the parties do
not contest [the] vitality [of Almendarez-Torres], we do not revisit it for purposes of our decision
today.”). Thus, Almendarez–Torres remains a narrow exception to Apprendi’s general rule for
the fact of a prior conviction. And although there may be some tension between AlmendarezTorres and Apprendi and Alleyne, “we are bound to follow Almendarez-Torres unless and until
the Supreme Court itself overrules that decision.” United States v. Smith, 775 F.3d 1262, 1266
(11th Cir. 2014) (quotation omitted).
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determination of the different occasions requirement does not violate the Sixth
Amendment); United States v. Santiago, 268 F.3d 151, 156–57 (2d Cir. 2001)
(“[W]e are satisfied . . . that § 924(e)’s ‘different occasions’ requirement falls
safely within the range of facts traditionally found by judges at sentencing and is
sufficiently interwoven with the facts of the prior crimes that Apprendi does not
require different factfinders and different burdens of proof for Section 924(e)’s
various requirements.”). With these principles in mind, we turn now to Dudley’s
Dudley argues that the main issue in this case “is whether the Shepardapproved documents the government submitted to the district court proved that
[his] prior convictions for second-degree assault . . . in Alabama were committed
on occasions different from one another.” In particular, Dudley asserts that the
Alabama indictments did not contain the dates or times of the offenses and, under
Shepard, the district court could not rely on the dates proffered by the prosecutor
during the plea colloquy because Dudley did not expressly confirm that he agreed
with the factual proffer.
11 Dudley makes two primary arguments related to the different-occasions inquiry:
(1) under Shepard, the district court could not rely on the factual proffer contained in Dudley’s
2013 Alabama plea colloquy because Dudley never confirmed those facts; and (2) at most, his
guilty plea established only the facts inherent to the elements of the offenses, and the district
court could not rely on non-elemental facts for the different-occasions inquiry because such facts
are unnecessary for conviction. We address both of these arguments in turn.
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Although Dudley did not state expressly during the Alabama plea colloquy
that he agreed with the prosecutor’s factual proffer that the assaults in question
occurred on May 8, 2011, July 26, 2011, and July 13, 2011, respectively, he
notably did not object. Indeed, the dates of the offenses were mentioned multiple
times during the plea hearing and not once did Dudley’s counsel or Dudley raise
any objection, or express any confusion or hesitation. Similarly, no objection was
raised when the state court asked the state prosecutor whether “[t]hese were all
separate incidents” and the state prosecutor confirmed that they were separate
Additionally, after the prosecutor completed the factual proffer at the 2013
plea hearing, he asked “[d]id I miss anything,” and Dudley’s counsel responded
“[t]hat’s it,” but then went on to raise a separate issue concerning whether jail
credit had been addressed. The fact that counsel did not object to the factual
proffer but raised a separate issue is an indicator of implicit agreement with the
Furthermore, after the factual proffer by the prosecutor in support of all three
indictments, the state court asked Dudley for his plea as to case no. 11-2610, and
Dudley responded “[g]uilty.” The state court asked Dudley “how do you plead” in
case no. 11-2366, and Dudley stated “[g]uilty.” The state court then asked Dudley
what his plea was to case no. 11-2012, and Dudley responded “[g]uilty, Your
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Honor.” Dudley confirmed that he was pleading guilty because he was in fact
guilty.12 He was also asked whether he had “anything to say before the [c]ourt
pronounce[d] sentence,” and Dudley responded, “No, sir.” Again, no objection or
corrections were made to the factual basis.13
We conclude that, consistent with Shepard, where there is evidence of
confirmation of the factual basis for the plea by the defendant—be it express or
implicit confirmation—a federal sentencing court is permitted to rely on those facts
12 The fact that Dudley pleaded guilty in each case following the prosecutor’s factual
proffer distinguishes his case from this Court’s recent different-occasions decision in Carter, 969
F.3d at 1242, in which the defendant entered his guilty plea prior to the State’s factual proffer.
13 Although Dudley and the dissent argue that a defendant may not have an incentive to
object to extraneous facts and superfluous allegations, such a concern is not present here.
Dudley had two very good reasons to object if the charged assaults were not separate incidents.
First, the indictments in case no. 11-2366 and case no. 11-2610 both charged Dudley with the
same crime—second degree assault—against the same victim—Officer Gandy. Thus, the
allegation that these were separate incidents was not superfluous or extraneous, and Dudley had
every incentive to object if those two assaults did not arise from separate incidents because
otherwise his conviction on those two counts would have violated his constitutional right to be
protected from double jeopardy. See Ex Parte Wright, 477 So. 2d 492, 493 (Ala. 1985). Second,
on top of the double jeopardy concern, Alabama has a habitual felony offender statute, which
significantly increases the penalties for felony offenders who subsequently commit another
Alabama felony offense. Ala. Code § 13A-5-9 (1975). At the time of his 2013 Alabama plea,
Dudley was 21 years old and he did not have any adult criminal convictions. Therefore, he was
not subject to the habitual felony offender statute. At the 2013 Alabama plea hearing, Dudley
pleaded guilty to a total of seven felony convictions, which will increase his sentence if he
subsequently commits another Alabama felony. Id. § 13A-5-9(c). Accordingly, if there was a
way to eliminate one or more of these felony convictions because they did not arise from
separate incidents, Dudley and his counsel certainly had an incentive to object. Yet, no objection
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to conduct the different-occasions inquiry.
14 And in this case, under the totality of
the circumstances, Dudley implicitly agreed with the factual proffer such that the
14 We do not hold that every time a defendant fails to object to the factual proffer, it
constitutes an implicit confirmation of the factual basis. Rather, the determination that a
defendant has implicitly confirmed the factual basis of the plea must be determined on a case-bycase basis considering the totality of the circumstances. The dissent argues that implicit
confirmation or assent to a factual basis during a plea colloquy is not sufficient and that Shepard
requires more—namely, express confirmation of the factual proffer by the defendant—which the
dissent oddly maintains is implicit in Shepard’s holding. The dissent asserts that “an expressconfirmation requirement . . . makes good sense” because it sets a bright-line rule that’s easily
administrable by federal courts reviewing often old, messy state-court records.”
But the dissent’s proposal injects arbitrariness into the ACCA predicate inquiry. More
often than not ACCA qualifying predicate offenses are state convictions and the colloquy that is
required for plea hearings varies from state to state. For instance, as is clear in this case, under
the dissent’s approach, the government would rarely be able to rely on Alabama plea colloquies
as part of the ACCA predicate inquiry—for either the violent felony or the different-occasions
determination—because Alabama does not require the trial court to inquire as to whether a
defendant agrees with the factual basis for the plea. Such arbitrariness is exactly what the
Supreme Court sought to avoid in Shepard and Taylor when it created the categorical approach
for the violent felony inquiry and limited a later court determining the nature of a prior
conviction to conclusive judicial records—records that had been subject to the judicial
adversarial process and were made or used in adjudicating guilt. Shepard explained that, in
pleaded cases, such judicial “certainty” lies in “the statement of factual basis for the charge, Fed.
Rule Crim. Proc. 11(b)(3), shown by a transcript of a plea colloquy or by written plea agreement
presented to the court, or by a record of comparable findings of fact adopted by the defendant
upon entering the plea.” 544 U.S. at 20. A plea colloquy is a conclusive judicial record, and
although Shepard referenced—without qualification—“the factual basis for the plea [as]
confirmed by the defendant,” id. at 26, the Supreme Court never stated that the defendant had to
expressly confirm the factual basis. Thus, nothing in Shepard precludes implicit confirmation of
the factual basis by the defendant based on the totality of the circumstances in a given case. See
also United States v. McCloud, 818 F.3d 591, 596–98, 600 (11th Cir. 2016) (noting that,
although the charging documents for the prior offenses did not specify the time or location of the
prior robberies, the prosecutor’s factual proffer which identified the location of one of the
robberies from McCloud’s prior plea colloquy established at least two separate offenses, but
vacating the ACCA enhancement and remanding for resentencing because the information in the
Shepard-approved sources was insufficient to establish that there were three separate offenses).
Indeed, an express confirmation requirement imposes a requirement that does not even
exist under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 11(b)(3) requires that a district court
“determine that there is a factual basis for the plea,” but it does not require the district court to
ask whether a defendant agrees with the factual basis. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b)(3). Permitting
both express and implicit confirmation protects against arbitrary results based on variances in
state requirements for plea colloquies from being the determinative factor as to whether the
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district court could rely on the proffered dates of Dudley’s prior Alabama assaults
to confirm that the predicate offenses were committed on different occasions from
We are not the first circuit to conclude that implicit confirmation can satisfy
Shepard’s requirements. Under similar circumstances, the Fourth Circuit in United
States v. Taylor, 659 F.3d 339 (4th Cir. 2011), found that a defendant’s plea
constituted an admission of the conduct reflected in the prosecutor’s factual proffer
even though the defendant never expressly admitted the facts. In Taylor, one of
the defendants argued that his prior Maryland conviction for assault did not qualify
as an ACCA predicate violent felony and that the federal sentencing court erred in
relying on the prosecutor’s factual proffer from his state plea colloquy because “he
never actually admitted [those] facts during his plea colloquy.” Id. at 341, 345.
The Fourth Circuit squarely rejected this contention. The court emphasized that
the transcript of the state plea proceedings revealed that, after being informed of
his rights, the defendant’s attorney asked whether it was still the defendant’s
intention to plead guilty, and the defendant responded affirmatively. Id. at 341–42.
The prosecutor then made a factual proffer in support of the plea. When the
government can later rely on a plea colloquy as part of the ACCA inquiry. Given these concerns
and the Supreme Court’s silence in Shepard as to whether confirmation of the factual basis
needed to be express, it is much more likely that the Supreme Court intended to encompass both
express and implicit confirmation of the factual basis for the plea within its holding as opposed
to the express confirmation requirement advocated for by the dissent.
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prosecutor completed the factual proffer, the court asked the defendant’s attorney
whether she had any additions or corrections, to which she responded “no.” Id. at
342. The district court then found the defendant guilty and asked if there was
“anything else [the defendant] would like to say,” and the defendant responded
“No, ma’am.” Id. The Fourth Circuit emphasized that “[d]uring the entire plea
colloquy, neither [the defendant] nor his counsel protested his innocence, disputed
his guilt, or disagreed with the prosecutor’s statement of the facts. . . . [despite]
[t]he colloquy [being] replete with opportunities for [the defendant] to challenge
his factual guilt.” Id. at 342, 347. Thus, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the
defendant’s attorney’s statement that she had no additions or corrections to the
statement of the facts and the defendant’s confirmation of his intention to plead
guilty and failure “to make any correction when given another chance to speak,”
“constituted an admission of the . . . conduct reflected in the sole proffered factual
basis for the plea.” Id. at 348.
We find Dudley’s circumstances even more persuasive than those in
15 First, unlike the defendant in Taylor who confirmed his intention to
15 The dissent contends that Taylor “isn’t quite on point” because it pre-dated Descamps
and Mathis, involved the violent felony inquiry as opposed to the different-occasions inquiry,
and Taylor argued that his plea was an Alford plea. The dissent’s arguments are unpersuasive.
The fact that Taylor pre-dated Descamps and Mathis is irrelevant because, as discussed further in
this opinion, neither Descamps nor Mathis affected the different-occasions inquiry. Similarly,
the fact that Taylor involved the violent felony inquiry does not change the fact that the Fourth
Circuit determined that Taylor implicitly admitted to the conduct contained in the factual proffer
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plead guilty prior to the state’s factual proffer, Dudley expressed his intention to
plead guilty following the state’s factual proffer three times—once for each case.
He did so without hesitation and without any hint of an objection to the facts as set
forth by the state prosecutor. Second, like the defendant in Taylor, when asked
whether he had anything else to say, Dudley responded, “No sir.” Third, when the
state court judge asked whether the assaults in question were separate incidents, the
state prosecutor confirmed that they were, and Dudley’s counsel made no
objection. Fourth, following the factual proffer, the prosecutor asked whether he
“miss[ed] anything” and Dudley’s attorney responded “that’s it” but inquired as to
whether jail credit had been addressed.
16 The fact that Dudley’s counsel confirmed
as part of its violent felony inquiry. Shepard existed when the Fourth Circuit decided Taylor,
and if implicit assent or confirmation is sufficient for the violent felony inquiry, it should also be
sufficient for the different-occasions inquiry. Furthermore, the fact that Taylor argued that his
plea was an Alford plea is a distinction without a difference. Taylor’s point—just like
Dudley’s—was that the factual proffer from his state plea colloquy could not be relied upon
because “he never actually admitted [to those facts] during his plea colloquy.” Taylor, 659 F.3d
347. In rejecting this argument, the Fourth Circuit first noted that, contrary to the defendant’s
argument, his “plea [was] not an Alford plea.” Id. Rather, the defendant’s plea was “a perfectly
ordinary guilty plea.” Id. Moreover, in rejecting Taylor’s argument, the Fourth Circuit
acknowledged Shepard’s reference to “a plea colloquy ‘in which the factual basis for the plea
was confirmed by the defendant,’” but it nevertheless concluded that because neither Taylor nor
his counsel made any “additions or corrections to the prosecution’s statement of facts” and
Taylor “confirmed his intention to plead guilty,” his “plea of guilty constituted an admission of
the violent conduct reflected in the sole proffered factual basis for the plea.” Id. Accordingly,
Taylor is clearly on point. It involved a garden-variety guilty plea, just like Dudley’s plea, and it
supports our conclusion that a subsequent sentencing court may rely on a factual proffer if there
is evidence of confirmation or assent by the defendant, be it implicit or express assent.
16 Following pronouncement of sentence, Dudley’s counsel again raised a matter of jail
credit for record purposes.
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“that’s it” following the factual proffer yet raised another issue concerning jail
credit further lends support to the conclusion that Dudley assented to the factual
proffer. Thus, just like in Taylor, during Dudley’s “entire plea colloquy, neither
[the defendant] nor his counsel protested his innocence, disputed his guilt, or
disagreed with the prosecutor’s statement of the facts. . . . [despite] [t]he colloquy
[being] replete with opportunities for [the defendant] to challenge his factual
guilt.” 659 F.3d at 342, 347. Accordingly, we agree that, when considered as a
whole, the plea proceeding confirms that Dudley assented to the factual proffer.
Dudley disagrees that he implicitly assented to the dates of the Alabama
assaults contained in the state prosecutor’s factual proffer. He maintains that his
guilty plea established only the essential elements of the assaults, and that dates are
“non-elemental facts” which courts cannot consider, citing the Supreme Court’s
decisions in Descamps and Mathis.
Dudley’s reliance on Descamps and Mathis is misplaced. As discussed
previously, both Descamps and Mathis concerned when a district court may apply
the modified categorical approach to ascertain whether a conviction qualifies as an
ACCA violent felony predicate—an inquiry not at issue here. Mathis, 136 S. Ct.
2253; Descamps, 570 U.S. at 257–58. Neither case addressed the second inquiry
required by the ACCA—whether the qualifying violent offenses were committed
on different occasions from one another. See generally Mathis, 136 S. Ct. 2253;
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Descamps, 570 U.S. at 257–58. Therefore, Descamps and Mathis have no bearing
on this case.
To the extent Dudley argues that Descamps and Mathis abrogated our
precedent regarding the different-occasions inquiry, his argument is unavailing.
Under our prior precedent rule, “a prior panel’s holding is binding on all
subsequent panels unless and until it is overruled or undermined to the point of
abrogation by the Supreme Court or this court sitting en banc.” United States v.
Archer, 531 F.3d 1347, 1352 (11th Cir. 2008). To conclude that we are not bound
by a prior holding in light of a Supreme Court case, we must find that the case is
“clearly on point” and that it “actually abrogate[s] or directly conflict[s] with, as
opposed to merely weaken[s], the holding of the prior panel.” United States v.
Kaley, 579 F.3d 1246, 1255 (11th Cir. 2009). Neither Descamps nor Mathis is
clearly on point as neither case deals with the different-occasions inquiry. See
generally Mathis, 136 S. Ct. 2253; Descamps, 570 U.S. at 257–58. Accordingly,
neither case abrogated our prior precedent on the different-occasions inquiry for
purposes of the ACCA. Kaley, 579 F.3d at 1255.
Moreover, since Descamps and Mathis, we have reaffirmed our holding that
district courts may rely on non-elemental facts contained in Shepard-approved
documents when deciding whether a defendant’s predicate offenses were
committed on occasions different from one another. Longoria, 874 F.3d at 1283.
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And we are not alone in this view. Other circuits addressing this issue have also
concluded that, while sentencing courts are restricted to Shepherd-approved
sources when conducting the different-occasions inquiry, there is no limitation on a
sentencing court’s consideration of non-elemental facts contained in those
documents. See, e.g., United States v. Walker, 953 F.3d 577, 581 (9th Cir. 2020)
(rejecting the argument that Mathis precludes a sentencing court from considering
non-elemental facts in Shepard-approved sources when determining whether the
offenses in question occurred on different occasions); United States v. Hennessee,
932 F.3d 437, 443 (6th Cir. 2019) (rejecting the argument that, under Descamps
and Mathis, a sentencing court is limited to elemental facts contained in Shepardapproved sources in conducting the different-occasions inquiry); United States v.
Blair, 734 F.3d 28, 227–28 (3d Cir. 2013) (rejecting the argument that Descamps
forbids courts from considering non-elemental facts to determine whether prior
offenses of conviction were committed on different occasions). Any holding to the
contrary would effectively render a sentencing judge incapable of making the
ACCA different-occasions determination as the elemental facts rarely ever involve
the date, time, or location of crimes.
17 Dudley makes much of the fact that he did not expressly “admit” or “confirm” the nonelemental dates of the assaults during the Alabama plea colloquy. But even if he had, under the
reasoning of Descamps and Mathis (which Dudley would have us apply to the differentoccasions inquiry), such an admission would not have mattered and could not have been relied
on by the district court as a basis for finding the ACCA enhancement. See Descamps, 570 U.S.
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In Dudley’s case, in determining whether the second ACCA requirement
was met—that the Alabama assaults were committed on different occasions—the
district court limited itself to the charging documents and the plea colloquy from
Dudley’s Alabama proceedings. Those are Shepard-approved documents.
Shepard, 544 U.S. 16, 26. Under our precedent, the district court was authorized
to use information from those documents, including non-elemental facts, such as
the dates of the offenses proffered by the prosecutor as the factual basis for the
plea, to determine whether the different occasions requirement was met. See, e.g.,
Longoria, 874 F.3d at 1283; Weeks, 711 F.3d at 1260–62 (“the district court ha[s]
the authority to apply the ACCA enhancement based on its own factual findings”
as long as those findings are drawn from Shepard-approved documents); Sneed,
600 F.3d at 1333 (holding that district courts may still “look to certain facts
underlying the prior conviction” to determine if the prior offenses were committed
on different occasions for purposes of the ACCA, provided they rely “only [on]
Shepard-approved sources”); United States v. Greer, 440 F.3d 1267, 1275 (11th
at 270 (explaining that “whatever [a defendant] says, or fails to say, about superfluous facts
cannot license a later sentencing court to impose extra punishment”); see also Mathis, 136 S. Ct.
at 2248 (explaining that facts are “extraneous to the crime’s legal requirements” and “need
neither be found by a jury nor admitted by a defendant”). This point illustrates why the
reasoning of Descamps and Mathis cannot extend to the different-occasions inquiry. Without
relying on extraneous facts—which Descamps and Mathis, if they applied in this context, would
have us ignore—there would simply be no way for a district court to ever determine whether a
defendant’s qualifying violent felony convictions were committed on different occasions from
one another, which is an undisputed requirement of the ACCA. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).
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Cir. 2006) (“There is implicit in the Shepard rule, however, a recognition that if the
nature of the prior conviction can be determined from those types of records, under
existing law the trial judge may make the determination. There would be no point
in restricting the sources that a judge may consider in reaching a finding if judges
were barred from making it.”).
Accordingly, the district court did not err in relying on the prosecutor’s
factual proffer in Dudley’s plea colloquy to find by a preponderance of the
evidence that the three qualifying prior convictions for Alabama assault occurred
on three separate, distinct occasions.
B. Rehaif Challenge to Dudley’s Guilty Plea
In Rehaif, the Supreme Court concluded that the word “knowingly” in 18
U.S.C. § 924(a) “applies both to the defendant’s conduct and to the defendant’s
status.” 139 S. Ct. at 2194, 2195–96. Thus, the Supreme Court held that to
convict a defendant of violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), “the Government must prove
both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged
to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.” Id. at 2200.
For the first time on appeal, Dudley argues that, in light of Rehaif, his guilty
plea must be vacated because the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction
given that the indictment failed to allege a crime as it did not “cite or track”
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§ 924(a).18 This argument is foreclosed by our binding precedent. We recently
held that the same Rehaif-based defect of which Dudley complains is nonjurisdictional. See United States v. Bates, 960 F.3d 1278, 1295 (11th Cir. 2020);
United States v. Moore, 954 F.3d 1322, 1333–37 (11th Cir. 2020).
Dudley also argues for the first time on appeal that, pursuant to Rehaif, his
plea was not knowing and voluntary because both the indictment and the plea
colloquy omitted a critical element of the crime—his knowledge that, at the time
he possessed the firearm, he previously was convicted of a crime punishable by a
year or more in prison. We review this claim for only plain error. Greer v. United
States, 593 U.S. ___, 141 S. Ct. 2090, 2096–97 (2021). To prevail, Dudley “must
show ‘a reasonable probability that, but for the error, he would not have entered
the plea.’” Bates, 960 F.3d at 1296 (quoting United States v. Davila, 569 U.S. 597,
607 (2013)); see also United States v. McLellan, 958 F.3d 1110, 1120 (11th Cir.
2020) (same). Dudley cannot make this showing. Indeed, Dudley does not assert
that he would have changed his decision to plead guilty had he known that the
government had to prove his knowledge of his felon status. Moreover, as in Bates,
“[h]ad the government been required to prove that [Dudley] knew he was a felon at
the time he possessed a firearm, there is overwhelming evidence to show that it
would have easily done so.” 960 F.3d at 1296. And “[h]ad [Dudley] known that
18 Dudley’s 2018 guilty plea predated Rehaif, which was decided in 2019.
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the government needed to prove that he knew he was a felon, the probability is
virtually zero that it would have changed his decision to plead guilty.” Id.
Accordingly, he cannot establish that the error affected his substantial rights for
purposes of plain error review, and he is not entitled to relief on this claim. Id.; see
also McLellan, 958 F.3d at 1120 (holding that a Rehaif-based error did not affect
the defendant’s substantial rights when (1) “[t]here was no contemporaneous
evidence to suggest that, had the indictment included the knowledge-of-status
element, [the defendant] would have changed his plea and proceeded to trial” and
(2) “the record reveal[ed] no basis for concluding that the government would have
been unable to prove that [the defendant] knew he was a felon when he possessed
the gun” had the case gone to trial).
Outcome: For the above reasons, we affirm Dudley’s conviction and sentence.