Johnson v. U.S.

Posted: March 1, 2015 by beguide in case summaries, Guns

WHAT HAPPENED: Johnson is a criminal defendant who faced heightened penalties under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The ACCA is a statute that serves to give higher penalties to habitual offenders based on the amount of violent felonies that the defendant has on his/her record. Johnson was charged under the ACCA due to a charge of Possession of a Short-Barreled Shotgun, which has been historically classified as a violent felony for habitual sentencing purposes.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: The Due Process clause of the 5th Amendment requires that criminal laws are fairly specific, so that a citizen could not be found guilty of conduct that they were unaware was a crime at the time it was committed. Johnson argues that the ACCA’s classification of “violent” felonies is unconstitutionally vague because Johnson is facing a heightened charge based solely on possession of an object, which in a vacuum is not violent and can be legal in certain circumstances. The United States argues that short-barreled shotguns are overwhelmingly used for violent purposes, and therefore the government’s classification of possession alone as a “violent felony” is appropriate and supported by history and precedent.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: The interpretation of violent felonies for purposes of habitual felony statutes could be at issue, which could have an effect on whether or not drug charges can be classified as violent felonies. If the Court holds that possession of one type of gun is not inherently violent, it could be argued that possession or the sale of drugs is also not inherently violent since it is not in itself a violent action. This argument is a stretch since drugs have a strong link to violence; however, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Court gave someone an inch and they tried to take a mile.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: This case is not yet decided.

YOU ARE ROOTING FOR JOHNSON IF: you have a career that generally involves lying and being a horrible person………or you are the criminal who is being represented by that person. Thank you, thank you very much. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

YOU ARE ROOTING FOR THE U.S. IF: you support broad usage of habitual offender statutes.

WHO WAS RIGHT: Both Brett and Nazim believed that U.S. will win the day.


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