High Court annuls “violent felony” three-strikes law

In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court has invalidated a clause in the 1984 Armed Career Criminal Actthe so-called three-strikes law, which empowered prosecutors to ask for extended prison sentences for criminals in possession of firearms.

The 1984 law, the Armed Career Criminal Act, instructed an additional 15-year-to-life sentence for those charged when the accused had three prior convictions for either “serious drug offences” or “violent felonies.”  The plaintiff, Johnson, had been sentenced to 15 years for a prior conviction, among his tally, of possession of a gun, despite the weapon had not been used to commit a crime.

The case was Johnson v. the United States and Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion for the court.

“It has been said that the life of the law is experience. Nine years’ experience trying to derive meaning from the residual clause convinces us that we have embarked upon a failed enterprise,” he said. “Each of the uncertainties in the residual clause may be tolerable in isolation, but ‘their sum makes a task for us which at best could be only guesswork.”

Justice Alito was the lone dissenter.

“Even if we put stare decisis aside, the Court’s decision remains indefensible. The residual clause is not unconstitutionally vague,” he said. “A statute is thus void for vagueness only if it wholly “fails to provide a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited, or is so standardless that it authorizes or encourages seriously discriminatory enforcement. (the) Statute should be interpreted in a way that avoids placing its constitutionality in doubt,” Alito continued.

The legislators are to blame here.  This is the “Tough on Crime” mantra gone haywire.

This law, written with the best intentions for the common welfare of law-abiding citizens, has been effectively demolished.

Inspired by the “Rockefeller Drug Laws,” the sale or possession of narcotics exceeding 2 oz. (sale) or 4 oz. (possession), drew 15 years, mandatory.  These laws created an equilibrium for violent felonies with identical sentences for minor, non-violent crimes.  Akin to Johnson v. United States, where impaired laws lead to unfair sentences, the justice system is enslaved by legislators swayed by rosy first impressions when deliberating anti-crime bills.

The four-decade campaign to find responsible devices to manage criminals and lower crime requires vision, leadership and, most important, insight.  In its stead, the court system and the population have been presented with knee-jerk solutions, often lacking specifics, which are rushed through Congress, are generally deficient in language and have been described as racist in origin.

Finding a “fix-it” solution to crime has become a political loser.

[supremecourt.gov] [rtnews.com]