Sentencing and the Armed Career Criminal Act - U.S. v. Brown

March 29, 2012

Criminal charges often carry with them the risk of long-term incarceration, but sometimes a person's previous convictions can also enhance the sentence of a separate, later conviction. In U.S. v. Brown, the District Court for the Middle District of Florida explains that a person previously convicted for a "violent felony" or "serious drug offense" runs the risk of additional jail time if later convicted on other charges.

1161374_chain_02.jpgDefendant Michael Brown plead guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition after having been convicted of felony offenses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). According to the District Court, Defendant had previously been convicted of "robbery and battery on a person over 65 years old" as well as battery on a law enforcement officer; burglary; two counts of grand theft; three counts of cocaine possession and one count of possession with intent to sell; resisting arrest in a high speed vehicle pursuit/flee attempt; two counts of battery; and possession of a firearm by convicted felon.

Although conviction on the federal firearm charge carries a maximum 10 year sentence, the ACCA increases the sentence to a 15-year minimum where the person has three previous convictions "for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another..." A "violent felony" under the statute is a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and which involves the "use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another" or "is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another..."

Following briefing and argument on the issue, the District Court ruled that Defendant qualifies as an armed career criminal pursuant to the ACCA, subject to the 15-year minimum sentence. Specifically, the court noted that Defendant's previous convictions for robbery, possession of cocaine with the intent to sell, burglary and resisting arrest satisfied the requisite violent felony or serious drug convictions under the Act.

In reaching this decision, the court noted that the crime of simple battery - including that on a law enforcement officer - does not constitute a violent felony for ACCA purposes unless it rises above simple "actual and intentional touching." Nevertheless, Defendant's other convictions were sufficient to trigger the ACCA.

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