Politics

Supreme Court Declares Crime Law ‘Unconstitutionally Vague’

People walk on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday April 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
People walk on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday April 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) 

Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

 

 

WASHINGTON (USA Today) — The case before the Supreme Court pitted a popular anti-crime bill passed by Congress three decades ago against a neo-Nazi and white supremacist with three felony convictions.

In the end, it wasn’t even close. The justices cast their lot with the convict Friday in his bid for a lesser sentence, and in doing so declared a key section of the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 “unconstitutionally vague.”

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the 8-1 decision for the court, although Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas did not agree that the law itself was at fault. Justice Samuel Alito dissented.

The problem for the conservative, tough-on-crime court was that the clause in question allows past convictions to be treated as violent felonies even if no violence occurred. If three pile up on an offender’s record, the next one brings a mandatory, 15-year prison sentence.

 

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