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Does an Arizona Crime Involving “Recklessness” Constitute a “Violent Offense” Under the Armed Career Criminals Act?

The Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA) is a federal law that requires a minimum sentence of 15 years’ incarceration for certain individuals. Specifically, ACCA imposes the minimum sentence for anyone convicted of a gun crime, who has three or more “violent felony” convictions. The United States Supreme Court is expected to release its decision in a recent case answering the question of whether a crime involving a defendant’s “reckless” conduct meets the definition of a violent felony. This case could have broad implications in many Arizona gun cases.

Originally passed in 1984, the ACCA has since been interpreted by many courts. One of the most common issues in ACCA cases is whether the defendant’s prior convictions fit within the definition of a “violent felony.” If so, the defendant will face the minimum 15-year sentence. The ACCA defines a violent felony as one that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.”

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case requiring the Justices to determine if a crime involving reckless – and not intentional – conduct can qualify as a violent felony under the ACCA.

Borden v. United States

In the case, Borden v. United States, the defendant was convicted of a gun crime. According to the prosecution, the defendant had three prior violent felony convictions, including one for “reckless aggravated assault.” However, the defendant claimed that his conviction for reckless aggravated assault was not a qualifying conviction under ACCA, because it only required he act recklessly, not intentionally. According to the defendant, crimes involving mere recklessness fall outside the scope of the ACCA because they do not constitute “violent felonies.”

During oral argument, the Court peppered both sides with many questions, often comparing this case’s facts to previously decided cases. One of the main arguments in the case involved whether the term “use of force” required a defendant’s actions to be purposefully directed at another person. If so, arguably, a crime involving recklessness would not qualify. However, several of the Justices seemed to believe that recklessness meets the definition, while negligence does not.

The Court’s decision is expected sometime at the end of 2020 or the first half of 2021.

Are You Facing Federal Gun Charges in Arizona?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a federal Arizona gun case, and you have a prior record, the Borden case may be of particular interest to you. The mandatory sentence requirements under the ACCA are severe, and everything should be done to avoid them. If convicted, you may be facing a mandatory prison term of at least 15 years. At the Law Offices of James E. Novak, Attorney Novak provides diligent, thoughtful, and aggressive representation to each of his clients. With decades of experience handling even the most complex cases, he knows what it takes to successfully defend against even the most serious accusations. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with Attorney Novak, call 480-413-1499 today.

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