Federal Court Rules Florida Attempted Murder is a Violent Crime for Purposes of Imposing an Enhanced Sentence

Under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), if a person convicted of a crime is deemed a career criminal, he or she may face increased penalties. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in Johnson v. United States, that the residual clause in the ACCA was unconstitutionally vague. As such, offenders previously sentenced to increased prison terms under the residual clause of the ACCA may be eligible for a reduced sentence. Each case must be evaluated on an individual basis, however, to determine whether the Johnson ruling will affect an enhanced sentence.

Recently, in a case appealed from the Southern District of Florida, a federal appellate court ruled that attempted murder is a violent felony and therefore grounds for increased penalties under the ACCA. If you are a resident of Tampa who has prior convictions and are currently facing criminal charges, you should meet with a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your available options and defenses.

Defendant’s Prior and Current Convictions

Reportedly, the defendant was convicted in Florida for first-degree attempted murder. He was subsequently charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition. He was tried and convicted of the charges. The defendant’s presentence investigation report showed he was subject to an enhanced sentence under the ACCA for attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery, and aggravated battery. He was sentenced to 204 months in prison. Following the Johnson ruling, he filed a motion to reduce his enhanced sentence, arguing his prior convictions could no longer be considered violent felonies. His motion was dismissed. The defendant then appealed on the issue of whether his conviction for attempted first-degree murder constituted a violent felony. On appeal, the court affirmed his enhanced sentence.

The Armed Career Criminal Act

The court explained that the ACCA allows for an enhanced sentence for firearm charges, where a defendant has three prior violent felony convictions or a serious drug offense. A violent felony is defined as a crime that has as an element the use or threatened use of physical force, or is burglary, arson, or extortion, or involves the use of explosives or presents a serious risk of physical injury. The court noted that the “residual clause” of the ACCA was deemed unconstitutionally vague by the Johnson ruling and therefore, a defendant can only be considered an armed career criminal if he or she has prior convictions for an offense named under the ACCA, a prior drug offense, or an offense that meets the elements set forth in the ACCA.

As first-degree murder is not a named offense under the ACCA, the court analyzed whether it met the elements set forth by the ACCA for a violent crime. Upon review, the court found that first-degree murder was a violent crime because it required the use of physical force. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that murder could be attempted without the use of force, finding no case law supported his argument. Therefore, the court affirmed his sentence.

Consult an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a Tampa resident with previous criminal convictions and are currently facing criminal charges, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your available defenses. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law will work diligently to help you seek a favorable outcome under the circumstances. You can reach our offices at 813-228-7095 or via the online form to schedule a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Reverses Sentence Based on Improper Scoring of Prior Crimes December 26, 2018, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog

Court in Florida Hears Appeal About Whether Defendant Should Have Been Allowed to Represent Himself November 6, 2018, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog

Florida Defendants Ask for Trial After New Evidence Discovered October 8, 2018, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog