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US Supreme Court Reverses ACCA Mandatory Sentence

Wooden v. United States Docket: 20-5279, Opinion Date: March 7, 2022. Wooden was convicted as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g). The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) mandates a 15-year minimum penalty for section 922(g) offenders with at least three prior convictions for specified felonies “committed on occasions different from one another.” Wooden had 10 burglary convictions arising from a single episode in 1997, during which Wooden unlawfully entered a one-building storage facility and stole items from 10 different storage units. The application of ACCA’s penalty enhancement to Wooden’s 922(g) sentence resulted in a sentence of almost 16 years. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed. Wooden’s 10 burglary offenses did not occur on different “occasions” and count as only one prior conviction under ACCA. An ordinary person using language in its normal way would describe Wooden’s entries into the storage units as happening on a single occasion. An occasion may encompass multiple, temporally distinct activities. The government’s contrary view could make someone a career offender in the space of a minute. Whether criminal activities occurred on one occasion or different occasions may depend on several circumstances, including timing, location, and the character and relationship of the offenses. Congress’s amendment of ACCA to add the single occasion requirement was based on its belief that a person who robbed a restaurant and did nothing else, is not a career offender. Wooden’s burglary of a single storage facility does not suggest the “special danger” posed by an “armed career criminal.” #acca #mandatorysentences #ussupremecourt

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