Federal Definition Of Terms And Analysis Of The Federal Armed Criminal Act

Section 4B1.2 Definitions of Terms Used in Section 4B1.1

The term "crime of violence" means any offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that:

  • Has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or another

  • Is burglary of a dwelling, arson or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another

The term "controlled substance offense" means an offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that prohibits the manufacture, import, export, distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance (or a counterfeit substance) with the intent to manufacture, import, export, distribute or dispense.

The term "two prior felony convictions" means (1) the defendant committed the instant offense of conviction subsequent to sustaining at least two felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense (i.e., two felony convictions of a controlled substance offense, or one felony conviction of a crime of violence and one felony conviction of a controlled substance offense), and (2) the sentences for at least two of the aforementioned felony convictions are counted separately under the provisions of Section 4A1.1(a), (b) or (c). The date that a defendant sustained a conviction shall be the date that the guilt of the defendant has been established, whether by guilty plea, trial or plea of nolo contendere.

Armed Career Criminal Act Analysis

In General

Title 18 U.S.C. Section 924(e) provides for the enhancement of a sentence when an individual who has three or more previous convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses violates Title 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g) (felon in possession of a firearm). This statute does not create a new offense, but is simply a sentence enhancement provision. Therefore, the prior felonies do not have to be set forth in the indictment or proved beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Miles, 290 F.3d 1341 (11th Cir. 2002).

Prior juvenile convictions can be considered predicate offenses despite the fact there was no right to a jury trial. United States v. Ruo, 943 F.2d 1274 (11th Cir. 1991). Whether the prior felonies qualify as predicate violent felony offenses is a question resolved by the court. United States v. Greer, 440 F.3d 1267 (11th Cir. 2006).

The Armed Career Criminal Act does not violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. United States v. Reynolds, 215 F.3d 1210 (11th Cir. 2000).

Definition Of Violent Felony

The Armed Career Criminal Act defines a "violent felony" as any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year ... that has as an element the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against the person or another; or is burglary, arson or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another. 18 U.S.C. Section 924(e)(2)(B). The career offender provisions of the sentencing guidelines contain a similar, though not identical, definition for a crime of violence. U.S.S.G. Section 4B1.2.