Seventh Circuit Review


Anna Derkacz


In 1984, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act revolutionized sentencing in the federal system by imposing mandatory minimum sentences for offenders who committed criminal offenses, increasing penalties for repeat offenses considered to be violent crimes. Since then, courts across the country have labored over defining what constitutes a “violent crime.” In the federal court system, juveniles can be transferred to adult proceedings under The Juvenile Transfer Statute. This statutes gives the government authority to transfer minors to adult court if he or she meets three conditions, one of which is whether the juvenile has a prior conviction of a “violent crime.” To determine whether a past conviction is in fact a “violent crime,” courts must assess its definitions using several interpretation methods discussed in the article. Additionally, courts conduct similar analysis when applying enhancement statutes during sentencing for repeat offenders. Although courts do their best to stay consistent, the analysis for violent crimes is the same whether it be for juvenile transfer purposes or sentence-enhancement purposes for adult repeat-offenders. However, the implications of transferring juveniles to adult court are critical and should be considered differently in the evaluation of the transfer issue. This article explores the expansion of possible court interpretations in violent crime when pertaining to juvenile offenders to depart from using the same standard of analysis as in adult cases. The Seventh Circuit determined in United States v. D.D.B, that the crime of attempted robbery does not count as a “crime of violence” but concludes so only because of the way the Indiana statute is written. Although the Seventh Circuit’s determination that attempted robbery is not a violent crime under the statute is correct, courts should use a different analysis for the transfer statute than they do for purposes of enhancement provisions to distinguish between juvenile and adult offenders.

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