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The Champion

May 2006 , Page 28 

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Challenging Crime Of Violence Sentence Enhancements In Federal Court

By Lynn Hartfield

Sentence enhancements for crimes of violence, which have become increasingly common, have serious consequences for defendants. In the federal system, defendants may be subject to two- and threefold increases in their presumptive sentences, often as a result of convictions that are quite old, and for which they originally received little or no jail time. The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected challenges to the constitutionality of these enhancements,1 and even with Booker’s relaxing of the standard for applying such enhancements, there has been little change in overall sentence length.2  

In federal court, defending against these enhancements is further complicated by the maze of differing statutes, each with its own slightly different crime of violence definition, and each carrying its own unique method of analysis. The purpose of this article is to summarize the issues relating to each crime of violence definition, identify strategies for attacking the use of prior convictions, and

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