Supreme Court rules failure to report to prison not a ‘violent felony’

Supreme Court rules failure to report to prison not a ‘violent felony’

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] decided two cases Tuesday. The Court ruled [opinion, PDF] in Chambers v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that failure to report to prison does not constitute a "violent felony" for purposes of sentence enhancement under the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA) [18 USC § 924(e), text]. Petitioner Deondery Chambers pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing the state of Illinois argued that he was subject to a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence under the ACCA, based in part on a prior conviction for escape when he failed to report to prison. Justin Stephen Breyer wrote for the Court:

We now must consider whether the "failure to report" crime satisfies ACCA’s "violent felony" definition. It clearly satisfies the first part of that definition, for it is a "crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year." But it satisfies none of the other parts. It does not have "as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another." It does not consist of "burglary, arson, or extortion," or "involv[e] use of explosives." And, more critically for present purposes, it does not "involve conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another."

Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Clarence Thomas joined. Alito suggested, "At this point, the only tenable, long-term solution is for Congress to formulate a specific list of expressly defined crimes that are deemed to be worthy of ACCA’s sentencing enhancement." Tuesday's ruling reverses the decision [opinion, PDF] of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and resolves a circuit split on the issue with the Ninth and DC Circuits having held that failure to report is not a violent felony and the other 10 circuits having held that it is.

In Jimenez v. Quarterman [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously that the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit incorrectly denied an appeal by an inmate seeking an extension to file a federal habeas corpus challenge, after he had been denied review in state courts. Carlos Jimenez pleaded guilty to felony burglary and habitation charges and was sentenced to 43 years in prison. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the Court, holding that:

where a state court grants a criminal defendant the right to file an out-of-time direct appeal during state collateral review, but before the defendant has first sought federal habeas relief, his judgment is not yet "final" for purposes of §2244(d)(1)(A). In such a case, "the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review" must reflect the conclusion of the out-of-time direct appeal, or the expiration of the time for seeking review of that appeal.

The Court reversed and remanded the ruling below.