Saturday, April 09, 2016

Is the Enumerated-Offenses Clause of the ACCA Unconstitutionally Vague?

Pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act (18 U.S.C. § 924(e)) , a person who violates 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) shall be imprisoned for a minimum of 15 years if that person has three previous convictions for a violent felony.   The enumerated-offense clause of the ACCA provides ‘violent felony’ includes a crime that is “punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” and specifies certain offenses.  [18 U.S.C. §924(e)(2)(B)(ii)].     

Defendant Ronnie Smith pled guilty to two counts of possessing firearms as a felon under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and to other federal crimes.  He was sentenced to 200 months in prison based on having three prior convictions that constituted ‘violent-felony’ convictions under the enumerated-offenses clause of the ACCA.  He challenged the vagueness of the enumerated-offenses clause but the Sixth Circuit found his argument misplaced. 

Though the United States Supreme Court recently invalidated the residual clause of the ACCA as unconstitutionally vague in Johnson v. United States,135 S. Ct 2551 (2015), the Sixth Circuit in United States v. Smith (15-3311) declined to make the same finding for the enumerated-offense clause.  Rather, the Court held that the enumerated-offenses clause ‘does not produce the type of unpredictable and arbitrary results that rendered the residual clause unconstitutional.” 

The district court’s judgment was affirmed.  

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