U.S. Supreme Court Declares Armed Career Criminal Act Unconstitutional
Sixth Circuit Applies Decision Retroactively
In In re: Watkins, The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Johnson v. United States, which struck down as unconstitutional the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), is retroactive to cases on collateral review.
This means that federal inmates who were sentenced as “Armed Career Criminals” in the Sixth Circuit and whose sentences were based on the now-unconstitutional “residual clause” may be eligible for a sentence reduction/re-sentencing even if their direct appeals have been exhausted. To qualify for a sentence reduction, however, the lower court must have used the “residual clause,” at least in part, to determine that the defendant was an Armed Career Criminal. As such, defendants who have been dubbed Armed Career Criminals without the “residual clause” and based only on their prior convictions for “serious drug crimes,” or the enumerated violent felonies of “burglary, arson,” “extortion,” or a crime “involv[ing] [the] use of explosives,” are not likely to qualify for a sentence reduction under Johnson or Watkins.
According to a piece written in the Columbia Law Review, approximately 6,000 federal inmates are serving mandatory minimums as armed career criminals nationwide. U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country are reportedly receiving thousands of requests for sentencing reductions in the wake of Johnson.
The recent holdings in Johnson and In re: Watkins provide hope that some of those inmates previously sentenced in the Sixth Circuit may have the mandatory minimum fifteen year sentence lifted and their sentence reduced.
Time is of the Essence
Typically, an inmate entitled to relief under this new decision only has one year (after exhausting their direct appeal rights) to file an appeal. Call one of our federal criminal appeal attorneys now for a free case evaluation and determine whether you, or someone you know, may be entitled to a sentence reduction based on this important new case.