Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Supreme Court continues to define what constitutes a ‘violent felony’

For the fourth time in as many years, the Supreme Court on Thursday considered exactly what kind of violent crimes call for the mandatory prison terms Congress provided in the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Get used to it, Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp-edged dissent; the court will be trying to sort out the law’s meaning “until the cows come home.”

The justices said that fleeing police custody in a vehicle could be a “violent felony” under the law’s definitions. Scalia not only criticized that decision, but the Congress that approved a law that contains provisions he considers so vague as to be unconsititutional.

“Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nitty-gritty,” Scalia wrote. “In the field of criminal law, at least, it is time to call a halt.”

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