Supreme Court Discusses Criminal Convictions in the Context of the Career Criminal Act

Generally, people who are considered career criminals face greater penalties than those with no criminal history. As such, if a person who has multiple prior convictions is found guilty of another offense, they may be subject to sentencing enhancements. While generally, crimes are discrete acts, a person can be charged with numerous offenses for one criminal enterprise. Crimes committed from a single criminal episode do not trigger the Armed Career Criminal Act (the Act) for sentencing purposes, though, as recently explained by the United States Supreme Court in a case in which the defendant had ten prior robbery convictions stemming from a single incident. If you are charged with robbery or any other violent crime, it is prudent to meet with a St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney to assess your options.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant broke into a storage facility in 1997 and stole from ten separate units. He was subsequently charged with and convicted of ten counts of burglary. In 2014, a police officer entered the defendant’s home and observed the defendant with a rifle in his possession. He was then charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of federal law. The defendant was found guilty and determined to be an armed career criminal under the Act, due to his ten prior robbery convictions. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, after which he appealed. The appellate court affirmed his sentence, and he filed a writ of certiorari.

Criminal Convictions in the Context of the Career Criminal Act

The issue the Supreme Court addressed was whether crimes that are committed sequentially as part of a single event occur on different occasions for purposes of imposing a sentence enhancement under the Act. The Court ruled that they did not, and reversed the lower court ruling.

The Court noted that, under the Act, people who have three or more prior convictions for specified felonies that were committed on different occasions from one another are considered armed career criminals. It then explained that the ordinary meaning of the word occasion did not mean an occurrence at a precise moment in time. In other words, one might say that the defendant committed numerous crimes on one occasion, but not that on numerous occasions he burglarized a storage unit.

Further, the defendant’s unlawful acts occurred in a single, continuous course of conduct. The Court noted that its interpretation of the word occasion was supported by the history of the Act, as Congress modified that act to state that the prior offenses must happen on occasions that are different from one another.

Talk to a Trusted Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

People accused of violent crimes face substantial penalties if they are convicted. If you are charged with a violent offense, it is in your best interest to talk to an attorney about your potential defenses. The trusted St. Petersburg criminal defense attorneys of Hanlon Law possess the skills and resources needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us at 727-897-5413 or via the form online to set up a conference.

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