Punishing Criminals for Their Conduct: A Return to Reason for the Armed Career Criminal Act
56 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2018
Date Written: 2018
For over twenty-five years, the Armed Career Criminal Act has produced inconsistent results and has taxed judicial economy perhaps more than any other federal sentencing mechanism. This recidivist sentencing enhancement is meant to punish habitual criminals based on their numerous past crimes, but the Supreme Court’s application of the Act too often allows habitual criminals to escape the intended enhancement on a legal technicality. This comes as a result of the Court’s categorical approach, which punishes habitual criminal offenders based on the statutory elements of their past crimes rather than the conduct of their past crimes.
In an effort to find solutions for this ailing doctrine, this Article analyzes how states have structured their own recidivist sentencing laws to avoid the same problems wreaking havoc in the federal courts. Of all the state approaches, a conduct-based approach is most promising because of its practical application and ideological consistency. Moreover, the many roadblocks articulated by the Court over the years that have supposedly prevented it from taking a conduct-based approach are overcome after considering the constitutional and practical sentencing landscape.
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