The Criminal Defense Blog


blog pic


The question before the court in United States v. Sansbury was whether the application of a four-level sentencing enhancement for abduction under U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(b)(4)(A) was justified. The district court found a 4-level increase was applicable because the court concluded that moving the cashier to the restroom did facilitate the commission of the robbery of the pharmacy. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that the 4-level sentencing enhancement was properly calculated in the PSR. 

The Incident and Procedural History

In June 2019, Sansbury, along with his co-defendant was involved in an armed robbery at a CVS pharmacy. The government alleged the duo restrained the cashier and pharmacist, using zip-ties, and proceeded to steal narcotics. Sansbury was later charged and pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to multiple offenses, including conspiracy to commit a robbery involving controlled substances, committing a robbery involving controlled substances, and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Tyler Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog 

A significant part of Sansbury's sentencing stemmed from a four-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(b)(4)(A), which applies when a person has been physically abducted to facilitate the commission of the offense or escape. In this case, the enhancement was applied because Sansbury had forced the cashier into the restroom and zip-tied his hands together.

Sansbury appealed the sentencing enhancement, arguing that his actions did not constitute abduction, as the movement of the cashier did not enable him to commit the crime or facilitate his escape.

Court’s Analysis and Decision

The Fifth court analyzed the definition of "abduction" as per the guidelines, which states that a person is considered abducted if the victim is forced to accompany the offender to a different location. It also clarified that the term 'different location' should be interpreted flexibly, even within the same building.

Second, Sansbury challenges the district court's determination that the "different location" requirement of § 2B3.1(b)(4)(A) was satisfied when he moved the cashier to the bathroom. This circuit has repeatedly held that "the term 'different location' should be interpreted flexibly on a case by case basis." United States v. Johnson619 F.3d 469, 472 (5th Cir. 2010). Moreover, the abduction enhancement is proper "even though the victim remained within a single building." Id. at 474. Here, Sansbury forced the cashier from the cashier's area at the front of the store to the restroom. Accordingly, the different location requirement was also satisfied.

United States v. Sansbury, No. 22-30114, at *4 (5th Cir. May 1, 2023).

Addressing Sansbury's arguments, the court clarified that the 'forced accompaniment' requirement for abduction is not narrowly defined. Sansbury had pointed a gun at the cashier and moved him from the cashier area to the restroom, which was sufficient to satisfy this requirement. Furthermore, this move was within the CVS store, hence the 'different location' requirement was also met.

Sansbury forced the cashier to the restroom and then zip-tied him there so he would not interfere with the robbery or call the police. This incapacitation of the cashier prevented the cashier from interfering in or disrupting the robbery, thereby facilitating the commission of the offense. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court did not err in imposing the abduction enhancement.

United States v. Sansbury, No. 22-30114, at *4-5 (5th Cir. May 1, 2023).

This blog post was prepared with the assistance of ChatGPT-4 AI. Nothing in this post should be considered legal advice or the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This blog is strictly for informational purposes only.

phone icon


The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.  Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience. This web site is designed for general information only.  The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney/client relationship.