Seventh Circuit Review


The Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA") supplements states’ law enforcement efforts against chronic violent offenders by substantially raising the penalty for armed criminals with past “violent felony” convictions. The ACCA defines the term “violent felony” by giving several specific examples and then adding a catch-all clause. One question that has continued to face courts since the ACCA’s enactment is what constitutes a violent felony under the catch-all clause. The Seventh Circuit recently categorized the offense of drunk driving as a “violent felony” under the catch-all clause and qualified drunk driving as a predicate act subject to recidivist sentence enhancement under the ACCA. In light of drunk driving’s non-violent nature, however, the Seventh Circuit’s expansion of the ACCA’s predicate acts blurs the distinction between crimes of violence and crimes of neglect and allows excessive penalties to be imposed on crimes that Congress did not intend for heightened punishment. This Comment examines the Seventh Circuit’s broad interpretation and concludes that the Seventh Circuit should not have enlarged the ACCA’s predicate acts to include negligent drunk driving.

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