Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids.
No. 1:18-cr-00028-1—Gordon J. Quist, District Judge.
Argued: December 12, 2019
Decided and Filed: June 25, 2020
Before: COLE, Chief Judge; SILER and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.
MURPHY, Circuit Judge. In the interpretation of a legal text, as in an ordinary
conversation, the way in which a drafter (or speaker) uses an indeterminate word is critical for
deciding the word’s meaning on a particular occasion. That is true for the phrase we must
interpret in this case: “different location.” Consider this phrase in relation to a store. Depending
on the context, the phrase could refer to a distinct place within the store or to a separate place
outside it. Suppose, for example, a friend says to you while cellphone shopping, “The
cellphones used to be right here, but must have been moved to a different location.” You would
likely take your friend to be referring to a different area within the store. Suppose instead your
friend says, “We have to go to a different location because the cellphone I want is out of stock.”
You would likely take your friend to be referring to a different store. Context is key to meaning.
We must apply this interpretive insight to a provision of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines
that has engendered a broad circuit split. A robbery guideline enhances the base offense level by
four if a victim “was abducted to facilitate commission of the offense[.]” U.S.S.G.
§ 2B3.1(b)(4)(A) (2018). The guidelines commentary defines “abducted” to mean “that a victim
was forced to accompany an offender to a different location.” Id. § 1B1.1 cmt. n.1(A). This case
asks whether robbers accompanied their victims to a “different location” when they forced the
victims from a cellphone store’s sales floor to its back room in order to tie them up. In the
context of this “abduction” enhancement, we think the phrase “different location” is best read to
refer to a place different from the store that is being robbed. And a store’s back room does not
qualify as a “different location” from the store. The facts of this case instead trigger a related
two-level enhancement that applies when robbers have “physically restrained” their victims. Id.
§ 2B3.1(b)(4)(B). We thus reverse the district court’s judgment and remand for resentencing.