2nd Degree Assault Not Violent for ACCA

Second degree assault in Maryland can no longer be counted as a crime of violence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), according to a Fourth Circuit opinion issued today by a unanimous panel, United States v. Thomas Royal. This ruling has been a long time in the making, but it is good to see that the issue has finally been laid to rest.

The bottom line is that far fewer people will be categorized as Armed Career Criminals, which saves these people from draconian 15-year mandatory sentences. In addition, the ruling is very likely to apply to career offender designations. We still do not know how this will play out for people who have already been sentenced to enhanced sentences based on a second-degree assault conviction. But rest assured we will be litigating this in the very near future. …

Holder Orders More Reasonable Drug Policies

This week U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a change in policy that could offer some benefit to people charged with federal drug crimes. Make no mistake, these are policy directives only and not federal law – and their impact is likely to be minimal. In fact, I’m not even sure that we will see a real change. Nonetheless, it is at least a start in reforming our unfair, arbitrary, expensive, and self-defeating federal drug laws. Here is what Holder said he would do:

* Direct US Attorneys to develop local strategies for determining “when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not.” This may mean that local prosecutors should use more discretion when deciding which cases to actually charge federally….