Monday, May 21, 2007

Full Faith & Credit Act No Bar To Basing 21 U.S.C. § 841 Enhancement on State Deferred Adjudication

United States v. Fazande, No. 06-30751 (5th Cir. May 18, 2007) (per curiam) (Reavley, Garza, Dennis)

Fazande pled guilty to conspiracy to possess 50+ grams of meth/500+ grams of a meth mixture with intent to distribute. The district court applied the enhanced 20-year mandatory minimum under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), based on Fazande's 1995 Texas deferred adjudication for possession of less than one gram of cocaine.

Fazande appealed, arguing that the deferred adjudication was not a "final" conviction, as required by the terms of the enhancement provision. He acknowledged that the Fifth Circuit has held otherwise in United States v. Cisneros, but argued that Cisneros should be overturned because it violates the Full Faith and Credit Act (28 U.S.C. § 1738), which provides that state judicial proceedings "shall have the same full faith and credit within every court of the United States . . . as they have by law or usage in the court of such State, Territory, or Possession from which they are taken."

An interesting argument. Unfortunately, the court rejects it with little discussion:
Although this court does not appear to have previously addressed Mr. Fazande’s full faith and credit argument, the argument is meritless. The Full Faith and Credit Act obligates federal courts to give effect to the judgments of state courts, but the principles that underlie the Full Faith and Credit Act are simply not implicated when a federal court endeavors to determine how a particular state criminal proceeding is to be treated, as a matter of federal law, for the purpose of sentencing the defendant for a distinct and unrelated federal crime. A number of other circuits have reached this same conclusion, and we are aware of no decisions to the contrary. [string cite and parentheticals] Accordingly, we reject the argument that the Full Faith and Credit Act prohibited the district court from considering his Texas deferred adjudication for sentencing purposes.

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