Supreme Court Ruling Makes Enhancing Sentencing Tougher


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Washington man should not have gotten a harsher penalty for a crime because a judge had investigated his previous offenses, reports the Associated Press. The 8-1 decision came in the case of Matthew Descamps, a Washington state man convicted of possessing a firearm in 2005. He could have been sentenced to a decade in prison. But since he had been convicted of multiple crimes, he fell under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which requires a sentence of at least 15 years if the defendant has three prior convictions for violent felonies.

Descamps argued that his 1978 conviction for burglary wasn’t violent and didn’t count. The federal judge decided to investigate the record himself and decided that it did count. Descamps appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed the decision. According to, the ruling will make it harder for the government to use the facts of a prior conviction to enhance a federal criminal sentence.

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