August 14, 2018

Tenth Circuit: Conviction is Final For Purposes of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b) When No Longer Subject to Direct Appeal

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in United States v. Holyfield on Tuesday, January 8, 2013.

In 2002, Christopher Holyfield was convicted of drug charges, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison because he had two prior felony convictions. Holyfield filed a § 2255 motion asserting his appellate counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to argue his 1998 California conviction was not final at the time Holyfield committed the instant violation of § 841(a)(1). The district court denied his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion for relief from judgment.

Holyfield was given probation when convicted of the 1998 charge. Under California law, an order granting probation is considered a final judgment for purposes of appeal. Holyfield failed to appeal that conviction within 60 days so when Holyfield violated § 841 after that time period, the 1998 conviction was no longer subject to examination on direct appeal. Thus, Holyfield committed a violation of § 841 after his 1998 conviction became final. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the denial of Holyfield’s § 2255 motion.

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