Lockhart v. U.S.

Posted: October 14, 2015 by beguide in Criminal Procedure
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WHAT HAPPENED:  Lockhart was charged with possession of child pornography.  Prior to this arrest, Lockhart had a sexual assault charge relating to conduct he had with an adult woman.
WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: Lockhart was given a statutory increase in his sentence because of a statute that requires a mandatory minimum penalty for defendants who have a prior conviction for “aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward”.  Lockart argues that since his previous conviction did not involve “a minor or ward”, but instead an adult woman, this should not apply.  The State argues that the “minor or ward” language does not apply to all the charges, but only to the last one.  Therefore, Lockhart views the statute independent of commas, where as the State sees the commas as specifying each individual aggravating charge.
WHAT IS THE RULING
This case is not yet decided
WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: In a specific sense, it will clear up this statute, which has a circuit split regarding the correct interpretation of the commas.  More broadly, this will help decide the power of commas in statutes and contracts, and will serve to appease our grammatical overlords.
YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR LOCKART IF:  Honestly, it really just matters how you view the sentence above.  Although the facts here are unsavory, the broader policy considerations likely won’t play a factor and this will just be how the Court applies the commas to this sentence.
YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR US IF:  Again, you love grammar; and therefore, are a weirdo.
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