Federal criminal law carries a stern punishment for persons whom qualify as armed career criminals (ACCA). If a person is convicted of unlawfully possessing a firearm under 922(g) and they have three previous convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offense they must serve a mandatory 15 years in prison. A violent felony is defined as an offense that has an element of the use or attempted use of physical force against another person, is a burglary, arson, or extortion or any conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another. This definition is applied very broadly by the courts as demonstrated by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a new opinion released on December 6, 2014.
In the case of United States vs. Welch the court ruled that a conviction for an Ohio law that prohibits the attempt to fail to comply with the order of a police officer. The offense was similar to attempting to flee and elude a police officer. Welch was convicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm and the court had to decide whether the prior Ohio conviction for attempt flee and elude qualified as a violent felony for the ACCA.
The Sixth Circuit ruled that there are always potential risks to officers in vehicle flight cases. They further said that attempting still creates a likelihood of confrontation between the officer and the person who has attempted to disregard their lawful authority which puts the officers in another risky situation. Because the court found this conviction to qualify under the Armed Career Criminal Act as a violent felony, Welch’s fifteen year sentenced was affirmed.
Michigan is included in the jurisdiction of the Sixth Circuit and therefore Michigan Federal judges must follow this ruling. This a very broad interpretation of the ACCA. We will wait and see if the Supreme Court chooses to hear this issue.