Brief filed: 05/10/2021
Wooden v. United States
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 20-5279
Decision below 945 F.3d 498 (6th Cir. Dec. 19, 2019)
The Armed Career Criminal Act’s “occasions” requirement has led to a deluge of unconstitutional factfinding by sentencing courts. The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that under the Sixth Amendment, only a jury—not a judge—may find facts that increase a maximum penalty, except for the simple fact of a prior conviction. But in analyzing whether a defendant’s three predicate offenses occurred on “occasions different from one another,” as they must have to support a penalty under the statute, lower courts around the country routinely make detailed factual findings regarding the timing, location, and conduct underlying each prior conviction, with no apparent jury involvement. The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear in other statutory contexts that such findings are unconstitutional. Because there is no reason why the Sixth Amendment would apply any differently to the “occasions” requirement, it is likely that every sentence imposed under the Armed Career Criminal Act has been imposed unconstitutionally.
Peter B. Siegal, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP, Washington, DC; Jeffrey T. Green, David Oscar Markus, NACDL, Washington, DC.