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Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer – Supreme Court Limits Definition of ‘Violent Felonies’

Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney William Moore commends the United States Supreme Court for their just ruling issued yesterday in Chambers vs. United States. Deondery Chambers was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm in Illinois. Previously, Chambers had completed sentences for aggravated robbery, battery, and selling drugs within the vicinity of public housing. He had also been convicted of escape – an offense which, by most definitions, does not include failing to report to prison, which was his actual offense. Chambers pleaded guilty to one count of felon in possession of a gun. Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer William Moore always counsels clients about all of their rights, including the right to go to trial, before pursuing plea deals on their behalf. Plea deals should only be entered into after consultation with a criminal defense attorney and careful thought on the matter, including ramifications for current probationary status and immigration.

Unfortunately, the trial judge enhanced Chambers’s sentence for the felon in possession of a firearm charged based on his prior record. Chambers was sentenced to 188 months in jail, or close to 16 years. When evaluating the prior record, the judge treated the failure to report to prison charge as an escape, as required by existing law. Any form of escape is classified as a violent offense for purposes of sentencing enhancement. Chambers failed to report for a weekend stint in the jail, as he was permitted to be out during the week.

Broward criminal defense lawyer William Moore has observed the troubling trends in interpreting “career criminal” legislation, like the kind that increased Chambers’s sentence in this case. The sentence was increased in accordance with the Federal Armed Career Criminal Act. Chambers’s criminal defense lawyer contended that the escape charge was not a true escape from law enforcement and thus not a violent crime. The Department of Justice claimed that “an aversion to penal justice” such as a failure to report to prison is tantamount to escaping from prison.

The United States Supreme Court, in a decision heralded by Chambers’s criminal defense lawyer, unanimously sided with Chambers. Although the justices had different reasons for reaching the same conclusion, the lower court will have to reduce the 188 month sentence substantially.

The Federal Armed Career Criminal Act requires harsh sentencing for all felons convicted of being in illegal possession of a firearm where the felon has three previous convictions for violent felonies. In Chambers’s case, if the failure to report to prison charge is not a violent felony, he should not face the hefty prison sentences required by the law. The Federal Armed Career Criminal Act mandates prison terms of 15 years to life imprisonment for felons in possession of firearms.

Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer William Moore has experience in a wide range of criminal defense situations. An arrest can damage all aspects of your life, including your employment prospects and custody and visitation of your children. If you have been charged with a crime in Florida, contact William Moore, P.A., which is an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal law firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties.

This article should be used for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is not intended to imply representation of any individual discussed herein.

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