Changes To The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA)

Unites States Supreme Court case of Johnson v. United States, decided June 26, 2014, determined that imposing a sentence under ACCA’s residual clause violates due process. The definition of “any felony involving conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” requires a determination if it is, in fact, a violent crime.

Here, the mere possession of a short-barreled shotgun was not in and of itself a violent crime. Courts must use the “categorical approach” when deciding whether an offense is a violent felony, looking “only to the fact that the defendant has been convicted of crimes falling under certain categories, and not to the facts underlying the prior convictions”.  Deciding whether the residual clause covers a crime thus requires a court to picture the kind of conduct that the crime involves in “the ordinary case” and to judge whether that abstraction presents a serious potential risk of physical injury.