Supreme Court clarifies precedent under Armed Career Criminal Act

Supreme Court clarifies precedent under Armed Career Criminal Act

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-1 in Welch v. United States [SCOTUSblog materials] that the court’s 2015 decision in Johnson v. United States [opinion, PDF] created a substantive rule of constitutional law and the holding applies retroactively to cases that are on collateral review. The case involves petitioner Gregory Welch, a convicted felon who was sentenced to heightened penalties under 18 USC § 924(e), the Armed Career Criminal Act (Act) [text], for the commission of a violent felony as defined in the act. Welch was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, after three prior violent convictions. In Johnson the court ruled [JURIST report] that the residual clause of 18 USC § 924(e) was unconstitutional under the void for vagueness doctrine. Welch’s original petition for certiorari was denied by the court in 2013, but his case made it to the Supreme Court by seeking a review of the denial of a certificate of appealability with the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website]. Monday’s decision affirms that Johnson is retroactive in cases on collateral review. Welch’s case is now remanded to the Eleventh Circuit for review of his sentence under the Act.

The court heard oral arguments [JURIST report; transcript, PDF] in this case in March. Certiorari was granted [JURIST report] in January.