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Supreme Court to rule on retroactivity of Armed Career Criminal Act decision

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Friday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in Welch v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether Johnson v. United States [opinion, PDF], which found increased sentences under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) [text, PDF] unconstitutionally vague, should be applied retroactively. Petitioner Gregory Welch originally entered a plea agreement to serve 0-10 years imprisonment for robbery, but his sentence was enhanced under the requirements of the ACCA. Under the ACCA, armed felons who have been convicted of at least three prior violent felonies must serve a minimum sentence of 15 years. However, the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] last summer that the ACCA violates the Fifth Amendment right of due process since the term "violent felony" was not clearly defined. Following the ruling, circuit courts have been split [SCOTUSblog report] regarding whether the ruling should be applied to all inmates currently serving ACCA enhanced sentences.

Welch and Johnson are the latest in a series of cases [SCOTUSblog op-ed] to address the ACCA's residual clause. The court granted certiorari in the Johnson case in April 2014 and originally heard oral arguments in November of that year before ordering a reagrument [JURIST reports] to address the specific question of vagueness.

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