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October 25, 2006

Is failing to report to jail a violent felony?

I have discussed before here and here the Kafkaesque reality that, in the federal system, prior state offenses like evasive driving can qualify as violent crimes to trigger severe sentence enhancements.  Today's new Kafka chapter in this criminal history story comes from the Seventh Circuit: a split panel decided in US v. Golden, No. 06-1362 (7th Cir. Oct. 25, 2006) (available here), that a defendant's prior "failure to report to county jail in violation of the Wisconsin Criminal Code" qualifies as a "violent felony" to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment under the armed criminal career statute, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).

Golden is a fascinating read, in part because all three judges on the panel author opinions.  Judge Williams, writing in dissent, has this closing thought:

No layman would anticipate that "failure to report to jail," as that crime is defined in Wisconsin, would trigger a recidivist statute that punishes those guilty of committing multiple violent felonies. While that fact is not dispositive in our inquiry, it should trigger some alarm with regard to the distance our interpretation of section 924 has traveled from "language that the common world" would understand.  For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.

October 25, 2006 at 01:59 PM | Permalink

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» Punishing Hypothetical (Rather Than Actual) Conduct from Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer
Doug Berman justifiably criticizes a Seventh Circuit opinion today that classified failing to report to a county jail as a crime of violence for Federal Sentencing Guidelines purposes. It makes the difference for this partic... [Read More]

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