SCOTUS Resolves Split Re Meaning of Armed Career Criminal Act Exception
Per Logan v. U.S., --- S.Ct. ----, 2007 WL 4232786 (Dec. 04, 2007):
We granted certiorari, 549 U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1251, 167 L.Ed.2d 72 (2007), to resolve a split among the Circuits as to whether § 921(a)(20)'s [of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA)] exception for “civil rights restored” should be interpreted to include civil rights retained at all times. Compare 453 F.3d, at 809 (case below) (“civil rights restored” does not include civil rights never revoked), and McGrath v. United States, 60 F.3d 1005 (C.A.2 1995) (same), with United States v. Indelicato, 97 F.3d 627, 631 (C.A.1 1996) (“civil rights restored” includes civil rights never lost).
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Congress framed § 921(a)(20) to serve two purposes. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 28-29. It sought to qualify as ACCA predicate offenses violent crimes that a State classifies as misdemeanors yet punishes by a substantial term of imprisonment, i.e., more than two years. See § 921(a)(20)(B). Congress also sought to defer to a State's dispensation relieving an offender from disabling effects of a conviction. Had Congress included a retention-of-rights exemption, however, the very misdemeanors it meant to cover would escape ACCA's reach. Logan complains of an anomalous result. Yet the solution he proposes would also produce anomalies. Having no warrant to stray from § 921(a)(20)'s text, we hold that the words “civil rights restored” do not cover the case of an offender who lost no civil rights.