Johnson vs. United States Paves the Way
For Many Convicted In Federal System to Have Sentences Reduced
Monumental federal sentencing reform has made an appearance most recently in respects to federal offenders who have been categorized as “Armed Career Criminals” (18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1)) and “Career Offenders” under U.S.S.G. Section 4B1.1. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 192 L.Ed.2d569 (2015), which held that the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) is unconstitutionally vague. And most recently, on December 23, 2015, in U.S. v.Townsend, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 22489 (3d. Cir. 2015), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals extended Johnson’s reach to those defendants who have been categorized as “Career Offenders” pursuant to section 4B1.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
Pursuant to the Armed career Criminal Act, if a defendant is currently charged with possession of a firearm and the violator has three or more prior convictions for a “serious drug offense” or a “violent felony,” the ACCA increases his prison term to a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life. (see 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1)) The Act defines “violent felony” as follows:
- “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year … that –
- “(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 use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”
The last part of the latter, “involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” has come to be known as the Act’s “residual clause.” Noteably,in Johnson v. U.S., 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), the court held:
- ”The residual clause leaves grave doubt about how to estimate the risk posed by a crime.” (at 2557)
- “The residual clause leaves uncertainty about how much risk it takes for a crime to qualify as a violent felony.” (at 2558)
- “The failure of ‘persistent efforts… to establish a standard’ can provide evidence of vagueness.” (at 2558)
- “Nine years experience trying to derive meaning from the residual clause convinces us that we have embarked upon a failed enterprise. Each of the uncertainties in the residual clause may be tolerable in isolation, but ‘their sum makes a task for us which at best could be only guesswork. Invoking so shapeless a provision… does not comport with the Constitution’s guarantee of due process.” (at 2560)
Most recently in U.S. v. Townsend, (2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 22489 (3d Cir. 2015) the Third Circuit Court of Appeals addressed whether Johnson’s holdings should apply to those Defendants designated as Career Offender under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Section 4B1.1.
Specifically, Townsend reasoned:
- “Although Johnson addressed the constitutionality of the ACCA and not the career offender provision of the Guidelines, the language of the residual clause in the ACCA is identical to the language in the Guidelines; career offender enhancement… Because of this, we have previously stated that ‘authority interpreting one is generally applied to the other.’” (citing U.S. v. Hopkins, 577 F.3d 507, 511 (3d Cir. 2009)).
- “Townsend’s prior conviction for attempting to elude a police officer is not one of the enumerated crimes of violence in U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a). Rather, eluding a police officer is a crime of violence under 4B1.2(a)(ii)’s residual clause –it ‘involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.’ Under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Johnson, as applied to the Guidelines, Townsend’s prior conviction for attempting to elude a police officer is not a crime of violence… sentencing Townsend under the career offender provision was error, and resentencing is appropriate.”
If you or a loved one has been sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Statute or have been categorized as a Career Offender under Section 4B1.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines pursuant to the “residual clause” (18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B) & or U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a)(ii) for a prior conviction that is not specifically enumerated in the ACCA or U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a)(1)-(2), contact the Law Office of Roy Galloway, LLC immediately, as your claim is subject to time limitations. My Law Office offers comprehensive representation to include:
- Preparation of Objections to Pre-sentencing Reports and Comprehensive Sentencing Memorandums.
- Appellate representation addressing Johnson based ACCA and Career Offender sentencing errors.
- 28 U.S.C. 2255 Motions addressing Johnson sentencing errors
Cases of the Johnson sort granting relief to many come far too infrequently, so contact a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of Attorney Roy Galloway @ 717-737-3300 today, and ride the wave towards equitable resentencing, as timeliness is of the essence! Let us put our knowledge and experience to work for you!