Friday, July 10, 2015

Court Limits Reach of Federal 3-Strikes Career Criminal Law

It's not easy to make a career in crime these days. The banks are cracking down on scoff-law traders, Google Earth is tracking your illegal logging, and even old-fashioned, violent criminals are routinely given decade-long sabbaticals due to sentencing enhancements.

Under the Armed Career Criminal Act, certain violent offenders are subject to mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years if they have been thrice convicted of crimes involving "a serious potential risk of physical injury to another."

What exactly qualifies as such a crime can be hard for career criminals and federal courts to determine. And that's exactly the problem, the Supreme Court ruled in one of its last cases of the term. The ACCA's so called "residual clause," quoted above, is unconstitutionally vague, the Court ruled, failing to give adequate guidance to courts and offenders both.



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