Retroactivity Considered at the U.S. Supreme Court
Press Release
Families Against Mandatory Minimums
April 6, 2016

A note from Families Against Mandatory Minimums:

There were promising signs during an oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court  last week that we thought you may be interested in learning about. If you have been following the Johnson case and news about the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) being ruled unconstitutional, then keep reading.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday, March 30 in Welch v. United States to determine whether the decision in Johnson v. United States can be applied retroactively. Johnson, a case decided last term by the Supreme Court, limited the types of prior crimes of violence that can be used to trigger the ACCA 15-year mandatory minimum imposed on felons convicted of possessing a weapon who have three prior crimes of violence.

In Johnson, the Supreme Court struckdown the so-called “residual clause” as unconstitutionally vague.  Before it was struck down, the residual clause had been used to help define certain crimes of violence that were then used to trigger the 15-year mandatory minimum.  Since that decision, persons convicted of being felons in possession of a firearm cannot be sentenced to more than 10 years unless their priors are specifically listed in the other parts of ACCA.

The question in Welch v. United States is whether the Johnson decision is retroactive. If the answer is “yes,” prisoners who were convicted under ACCA based on one or more residual clause priors can seek to have their 15-year sentences vacated.

According to Professor Rory Little, writing for SCOTUSblog, it appears the Supreme Court may rule that Johnson is retroactive. A decision in the case is expected by June 30.  Monitor this decision on FAMM’s website.

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