The Court ruled this morning in Chambers v. US. (opinion) that failure to report for weekend confinement falls outside the scope of ‘violent felony’ as defined by the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA) [18 U.S.C §924(e)].

The ACCA requires a minimum 15-year sentence for individuals convicted of “three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another.” The district court argued that one of Deondery Chambers’ prior offenses, a failure to report for a weekend confinement, constituted a ‘violent felony’ and thus triggered the elevated sentence. §924 defines a violent felony as a crime that meets the following criteria:

    A crime punishable by more than one year in prison and either:

      i. has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another;
      OR
      ii.is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves the use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another

The court today found that because failure to report to confinement does not constitute either (i) or (ii), the crime does not constitute a ‘violent felony’ for the purposes of triggering the elevated sentence.

Justice Alito wrote separately to further his crusade against mandatory sentencing guidelines. He’s long had a aversion to messy, quasi-mandatory sentencing guidelines and this time he takes aim at the Supreme Court’s guidance on ACCA sentencing, or lack thereof.

At this point, the only tenable, long-term solution is for Congress to formulate a specific list of expressly defined crimes that are deemed to be worthy of ACCA’s sentencing enhancement.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Categories

Random Posts

  • January Hearing List Released: The Supreme Court has released the Hearing List for the January sitting and you can find it here. Several high-profile advocates are back...
  • Final Term Index: Here is the final Term Index for October Term 2009. OT09_term_index_final
  • Predicting the April Sitting: I run into the exact same debate every year around mid-January: which cases will be heard during the current term and which will be pushed o...
  • Chief Justice Roberts and Unanimous Decisions: When he was nominated to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roberts mentioned that one of his main objectives as chief justice would be to cre...
  • Supreme Court Justices: Age at Retirement: Using the still-fabulous Supreme Court Compendium data set, I've thrown together a chart plotting the ages of each Justice at retirement. I ...