2nd Circuit affirms sentencing enhancement

Some firearms-related action in the 2nd Circuit:

“In United States v. St. Hilaire, 19-640 (May 21, 2020), the Second Circuit (Jacobs, Calabresi, Chin) affirmed a sentencing enhancement for possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, even though at least one of the serial numbers on the weapon was legible … St. Hilaire was arrested in November 2017 and a protective frisk uncovered a semiautomatic pistol … The pistol that was found on St. Hilaire bore three different serial numbers, each on different components of the weapon. One of the numbers was slightly scratched but clearly legible; another was scratched but still showed most of the characters clearly; and a third was so heavily scratched that some of the numbers were not clear. The presentence report applied a four-level sentencing enhancement for possessing a firearm with “an altered or obliterated serial number,” pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(4)(B) … St. Hilaire objected to the enhancement, pointing to the fact that at least one of the serial numbers was clearly legible and that by comparing the three serial numbers, one could determine they were all the same. Because the Second Circuit had never interpreted what it means for a serial number to be “altered or obliterated” pursuant to the Guidelines, the district court looked to the case law of other circuits for guidance. The court applied the enhancement, finding that the serial number was not visible to the naked eye and therefore had been “altered,” as that term was intended under the Guidelines … St. Hilaire appealed, challenging the four-level sentence enhancement on the grounds that one legible serial number on the firearm renders the enhancement inapplicable …”

The 2nd Circuit ruled that the enhancement applies if a single iteration of a serial number has been altered or obliterated, notwithstanding whether another may be legible.

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