Welch v. US: A Surprise Supreme Court Decision will Let Some Federal Prisoners out Early
April 18, 2016

“Some federal prisoners might qualify for shorter sentences, or even release, after a Supreme Court ruling today that held that a decision last year on a major criminal law case would be applied retroactively.

“On a vote of 7-1 in Welch v. United States, the Court ruled that its decision in Johnson v. United States, a case about federal sentencing law, would apply even to prisoners who have already been sentenced and whose cases are closed. Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

 “Johnson v. United States dealt with the Armed Career Criminal Act, a federal version of “three strikes and you’re out” laws that added five years to the sentences for criminals convicted of at least four “violent felonies” or serious drug crimes. But “violent felonies” isn’t a legal term, and the catchall definition of federal law — “conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” — was so vague that it was unconstitutional, the Court ruled last year.”

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