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.


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