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JOHNSON v. UNITED STATES (No. 08-5274)
United States Supreme Court Opinion Decided: March 2, 2010
Petitioner Johnson pleaded guilty to possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1). The Government sought sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which authorizes an enhanced penalty for a person who violates §922(g) and who “has three previous convictions” for “a violent felony,” §924(e)(1), defined as, an offense that “has as an element the use . . . of physical force against the person of another,” §924(e)(2)(B)(i). Among Johnsons’ three prior felony convictions was a 2003 Florida conviction for simple battery. Under Florida law, battery is ordinarily a first-degree misdemeanor but was a felony conviction for Johnson because he had a previous battery conviction. A battery can occur under Florida law when a person “[a]ctually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against [his] will.” §784.03(1)(a). The District Court enhanced Johnson’s sentence, concluding that Johnson’s 2003 conviction was a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act because “[a]ctually and intentionally touch[ing]” another constitutes the use of “physical force” under §924(e)(2)(B)(i). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.
The Supreme Court held that the Florida felony offense of battery by “[a]ctually and intentionally touch[ing]” another person does not have “as an element the use . . . of physical force against the person of another,” §924(e)(2)(B)(i), and thus does not constitute a “violent felony” under §924(e)(1).
In interpreting the phrase “physical force” in §924(e)(2)(B)(i), the Court was not bound by the Florida Supreme Court’s conclusion that, under Florida’s statutory equivalent to the Armed Career Criminal Act, the offense of battery does not “involve the use . . . of physical force or violence against any individual.”
Because §924(e)(2)(B)(i) does not define “physical force,” the Court gave the phrase its ordinary meaning.
The Government suggested that “force” in §924(e)(2)(B)(i)’s definition of “violent felony” is a legal term of art describing one element of the common-law crime of battery. Here, “physical force” does not define the crime of battery, but rather the statutory category of “violent felony.” §924(e)(2)(B)(i). In that context, “physical force” means violent force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.
The Court interpreted the phrase “physical force” only in the context of a statutory definition of “violent felony,” and did not decide whether the same meaning applies in the context of defining the scope of misdemeanor offenses.
The Court declined to remand for consideration whether Johnson’s 2003 battery conviction qualifies as a “violent felony” under § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii).
Reversed and remanded.
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Stevens, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a filed dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined.
Available at: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-6925.pdf.
BLOATE v. UNITED STATES (No. 08-728)
United States Supreme Court Opinion Decided: March 8, 2010
The Speedy Trial Act of 1974, 18 U. S. C. §3161 et seq., requires that a criminal defendant’s trial commence within 70 days after he is charged or makes an initial appearance, whichever is later, 3161(c)(1), and entitles him to dismissal of the charges if that deadline is not met, §3162(a)(2). Delays in the trial, however, can negate this 70 day period (i.e.: delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant).
On August 24, 2006, petitioner Bloate was indicted by a grand jury with felony possession of firearms and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, starting the Speedy Trial Act’s 70 day clock. On September 7, petitioner filed motion to extend the deadline to file pretrial motions. The deadline was extended to September 25, on which date counsel for the petitioner waived all pretrial motions. On October 4th a hearing was held, in which the magistrate judge found petitioner’s waiver voluntary and intelligent. After several other delays, counsel for petitioner moved to dismiss trial under the Speedy Trial Act, as the 70 day clock had expired. District Court denied the motion as the period from September 13 to October 4 was excluded from the 70 days under the language of the act. Petitioner Bloate stood trial for two days on March 5 and 6, 2007 and was sentenced to two 30 year concurrent terms.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied petitioners appeal reasoning “pretrial motion preparation time” is automatically excludable under [Speedy Trial Act] subsection (h)(1)-which covers “delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant”-as long as “the [district] court specifically grants time for that purpose.” 534 F. 3d, at 897. The Eighth Circuit joined 6 other Courts of Appeals in adopting this ruling, however, two Courts of Appeals disagree, holding that pretrial motions are outside of subsection (h)(1)’s scope. The Supreme Court sought to resolve this issue.
The Supreme Court held that “the time the District Court grants petitioner to prepare pretrial motions may be excluded [from the 70 days] only when a district court enters appropriate findings [justifying the exclusion]. The 28-day period from September 7 through October 4…is not automatically excludable under subsection (h)(1). We therefore do not consider whether any other exclusion would apply to all or part of the 28-day period” 559 U.S. (2010). Although the Supreme Court decision was in favor of Bloate, the 8th Circuit Court may decide on remand, whether the indictment and conviction remain effective.
Reversed and Remanded.
Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a concurring opinion. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined
Available at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-728.ZS.html