Notes on Johnson v. United States and the Armed Career Criminal Act

In Johnson v. US, SCOTUS struck down part of the Armed Career Criminal Act – a federal law which imposes enhanced penalties (a fifteen year mandatory minimum sentence) on those convicted of certain federal firearms charges based on their criminal histories.

One of the ways the ACCA’s enhanced penalties can be triggered is if the defendant has three or more “violent felonies” in their criminal history.  Without getting too much into the weeds, Johnson greatly reduces the number of offenses which can qualify as violent.  So a lot of defendants who might otherwise be subject to the Act will now be able to avoid it.

The cases raises some interesting questions.  Will prisoners serving ACCA sentences be able to now get reductions?  Is the career offender guideline section, which has similar language but somewhat different requirements and penalties, also void for vagueness?  Will this case trigger a revival of void for vagueness challenges to other laws?

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