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Twice recently the Supreme Court has chastised the U.S. Department of Justice for stretching unlawful rules beyond their logical application in an effort to secure a conviction. Beyond their consequences for specific defendants, these choices delivered a welcome message to prosecutors which they should never uproot a statute from the clear context to get their guy (or girl).

Sometimes, nevertheless, prosecutors are aided inside their overreach by laws and regulations which are therefore vaguely written that it is not yet determined precisely what conduct will be targeted. On Monday, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to 1 law that is such which permitted the federal government to determine unlawful control of the weapon as being a «violent felony» justifying an extended prison term.

The extremely ugly defendant in this situation, Samuel Johnson, is a white supremacist from Minnesota whom pleaded accountable in 2012 to being a felon in control of the firearm. Underneath the Armed Career Criminal Act, he had been sentenced up to a 15-year jail term because he previously three previous «violent felonies» on his record. Johnson conceded that two of their past beliefs, for robbery and tried robbery, had been felonies that are violent. But he disputed the federal government’s choice to classify a 3rd conviction, for possessing a short-barreled shotgun, as being a «violent felony.»

The idea that the simple control of an unlawful firearm is a violent work defies the dictionary and common understanding, and Johnson initially argued — plausibly — it was perhaps not. But Monday’s arguments centered on a wider problem: perhaps the felony that is violent into the Armed job Criminal Act ended up being unconstitutionally vague. (más…)