Thursday, June 20, 2013

High Court Makes it More Difficult to Enhance Sentences

The Supreme Court says a man should not have gotten a harsher penalty for a crime because a judge had investigated his previous offenses, reported the Associated Press.

The 8-1 decision came down today in the case of Matthew Descamps, a Washington state man convicted of possessing a firearm in 2005. He could have been sentenced to a decade in prison. But since he had been convicted of multiple crimes, he fell under the Armed Career Criminal Act. That requires a sentence of at least fifteen years if the defendant has three prior convictions for violent felonies.

Descamps argued that his 1978 conviction for burglary wasn't violent and didn't count. The federal judge decided to investigate the record himself and decided that it did count. Deschamps appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

The ruling will make it harder for the government to use the facts of a prior conviction to enhance a federal criminal sentence.

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