Supreme Court rules robbery can be violent felony under Armed Career Criminal Act
© WikiMedia (Michael Coghlan)
Supreme Court rules robbery can be violent felony under Armed Career Criminal Act

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a robbery conducted with the use of force sufficient to overcome a victim’s resistance, satisfies the “physical force” requirement of a violent felony and can trigger punishment via the Armed Career Criminal Act.

The Armed Career Criminal Act is a federal law in which those convicted of possessing firearms, receive a mandatory 15-year sentence if they have three or more past convictions of violent felonies or drug charges. The law acts similar to other strict liability statutes imposing three-strike policies.

Defendant Denard Stokeling was convicted of possessing a firearm after burglarizing a restaurant in Florida. Stokeling had three earlier convictions, and in his sentencing, prosecutors applied the Armed Career Criminal Act to extend his sentence. Stokeling argued that one of his past convictions, a robbery where he snatched a necklace, should not be counted as a “violent felony” and therefore should not trigger the Armed Career Criminal Act.

The Armed Career Criminal Act encompasses a robbery offense that requires the defendant to overcome the victim’s resistance. The Court determined that the “force necessary to overcome a victim’s physical resistance is inherently ‘violent.'” In a robbery, the offender must overpower a victim and the ensuing contest between the two is capable of causing pain or injury, thus making the action violent. Therefore, the court ruled that Stokeling’s previous robbery charge can be considered a violent felony and invoke the Armed Career Criminal Act’s mandatory sentence of 15 years.