From today’s United States v. Young (6th Cir. Sept. 11, 2014):
Edward Young received a mandatory fifteen-year prison sentence for the crime of possessing seven shotgun shells in a drawer. He came into possession of the shells while helping a neighbor sell her late husband’s possessions. When he eventually discovered them, he did not realize that his legal disability against possessing firearms — resulting from felonies committed some twenty years earlier [burglary-related offenses between 1990 and 1992 -EV] — extended to ammunition. Under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), Young received a mandatory fifteen-year sentence.
Young now asks this court to conclude that the ACCA, as applied to him, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment because the gravity of his offense is so low as compared to the harshness of his sentence, and unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment because he lacked notice. Our precedent compels us to reject these claims and to affirm Young’s sentence.
The Eighth Amendment conclusion, I think, is correct, for the reasons given in the opinion. But the concurrence’s criticism of the Armed Career Criminal Act minimum sentences strikes me as correct, too. (It cites, among other sources, our own Paul Cassell, who was a District Judge at the time.) “While the means Congress has selected must be accepted, this case once again reveals the need for, at minimum, a more sensible and targeted ACCA, one that would continue to remove from society those most likely to cause harm while allowing less severe sentences for those who, like Young, do not pose that risk.”
Thanks to Prof. Douglas Berman (Sentencing Law & Policy) for the pointer.