Custis v. United States

PETITIONER: Custis
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Aware Woman Center for Choice

DOCKET NO.: 93-5209
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 511 US 485 (1994)
ARGUED: Feb 28, 1994
DECIDED: May 23, 1994

ADVOCATES:
Mary French - on behalf of the Petitioner
William C. Bryson - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Custis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 28, 1994 in Custis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 23, 1994 in Custis v. United States

Harry A. Blackmun:

Also on behalf of the Chief Justice, I have the opinion to announce in No. 93-5209, Custis against the United States.

This case involves a collateral challenge to a State Court conviction used to enhance a federal sentence pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act which provides for enhancement of the sentence of a convicted firearms possessor who has three previous convictions or a violent felony or a serious drug offense.

After the jury convicted petitioner, Darren J. Custis, of possession of a firearm by a felon and another federal crime, the government relied on his prior State Court convictions to support a motion under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

The District Court rejected Custis' challange to be used for this purpose of his State Court convictions and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we hold that with the sole exception of convictions obtained in violation of a right to counsel, a defendant in a federal sentencing proceeding has no right collaterally to attack the validity of previous state convictions that are used to enhance this sentence under the statute known as Section 924(e).

Congress did not intend to permit such collateral attacks and none of the constitutional violations alleged by Custis including the claim denial of effective assistance of counsel rises to the level of a jurisdictional defect resulting from the failure to appoint counsel at all.

And the judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore, affirmed.

Justice Souter, joined by Justice Stevens and by me, has filed a dissenting opinion.