Supreme Court: Definition of “crime of violence” unconstitutionally vague

By Larry . . . NARSOL has some good news today from the United States Supreme Court in the case of Sessions v. Dimaya. The case involved James Dimaya, a lawful, permanent resident of the United States whose deportation was sought because of two convictions for first-degree burglary in the state of California. After his second offense, the government sought to deport him because immigration law defines him as an “aggravated felon.” An Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals held that California’s first-degree burglary is a “crime of violence” as defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Supreme Court affirmed the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that the definition of “crime of violence” is unconstitutionally vague.

The “void-for-vagueness doctrine” guarantees that ordinary people have fair no­tice of the conduct a statute proscribes. See Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U. S. 156, 162 (1972). And the doctrine guards against arbitrary or discriminatory law enforce­ment by insisting that a statute provide standards to govern the actions of police officers, prosecutors, juries, and judges. See Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U. S. 352, 357– 358 (1983). This is the Supreme Court’s second opinion on this issue. The Court previously held that the Armed Career Criminal Act’s (ACCA) language defining a “violent felony” as any felony that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” unconstitutional under the void for vagueness doctrine and said that it violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. See Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 192 L.Ed.2d 569 (2015).

This is good news for our stakeholders because lawmakers are so fond of labeling sexual offenses violent when there is no violence. We are optimistic that this decision will provide the framework and support future challenges to these whimsical definitions of crimes of violence.

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Larry Neely

Larry serves as NARSOL'S treasurer, publisher of the Digest, and co-chair of the conference planning committee. He also hosts the "NARSOL in Action" and "Can They Do That?" webinars and is a regular on the "Registry Matters" podcasts.

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    • #38910 Reply
      Nancy Galuppo

      when sentenced the court sprinkles phrases like ‘crime of violence’ into the
      sentencing. which in our case pretty much cemented the probabtion for life addition to my son’s sentence. a non-contact offense.

      • #39213 Reply

        It is God’s work that you, a person of reason, realizes the onerous nature of states use or words. State cements for all-time a cover upon your boy from which other citizens will use to disqualify him from opportunity! Clearly a violation of the natural law & Liberty. In short, unstomachable! Here is why.
        1) States position presumes humans do not learn.
        2) States definition of “normal human sexual behavior” is ambiguous and ungrounded in fact. Therefore, “deviant human sexual behavior” is as well.
        (See, Cultural texts)
        3) The f***my Federal government has no business in the day to day lives of freemen. Separation of powers.
        4) Making felons out of those who are not is occurring in a measurable way.
        5) Forging felons from those not proven to present a threat greater than the average citizen to life of other citizens has no utility for safety. It’s busi-work. Ask any registrant answering questions from THE FBI because they happen to live near a kid whom is missing or presumed abducted.

        Lastly ma’am tell your people to be very aware of their use of the internet. One should be free to refrain from its use. Data collected by both public and private parties including corporations is being exploited. FB currently denies its accessibility to registrants yet gathers information identifying them. This is reflective of states and people’s intent to impose restriction and\or affirmative disability. Without SORNA no such could be imposed.

        This is important because we have proof of unlawful collusion between the FED and Big Data to impose disability to individual free speech. No such could exist without unfettered use of a database that was provided under SmithVDoe.

        then a state can do just about anything with it. Thank you Mr. Roberts.

      • #39853 Reply

        “The Pursuit of happiness” Is this possible as a registered sex offender?

    • #38958 Reply

      This is good news. Kansas loosely defines all sex offenses as crimes against a person and consider sex offenders as violent felons. Under Kansas law, I am a violent felon even though I have no victim.

    • #39027 Reply

      Law makers are very shrewed when they type cast others in these sex situations. Should everyone just sit down and take it when they ask one they want to get naughty? What does one say to that I’ll be right down and than its a who’s fault game is it.

      Generally people don’t give opportunitys to induce damages to another and with this sex situation its a cash cow for them. Sure they will give you a degree of punishment level but in the long run they are considered violent as nobody would think of providing someone thru the internet with an opportunity and on an adult chat site when the sites should have statements to the fact FOR ADULTS ON
      good evening from Tasty Woman:-) could u ple… Now that is a typical enducement. I as im sure all others have 50 or so more like this on their computers. Its all a con game to twist one up in all this. I wonder if that is unconstitutionally vague or should one open the letter and just sing along

    • #39211 Reply
      Tim L

      What qualifies as, ” punishment” is unconstitutionally vague.

    • #39580 Reply

      We can all talk about vagueness and the constitution but did you know there are many types of Offenders. Here is a list for starters
      1. the sex offender 2. the vainglory offender 3. Theirs the backbiter offender 4. Theirs the loveless offender 5. Theirs the drug offender 6. Theirs the spirit offender 7. Theirs the church offender 8. Theirs the prudish offender 9. Theirs the pride offender 10. Theirs the opressive offender 11. Theirs the government offender 12. Theirs the covet offender.
      Its a shame to say today that a lot of us are caught up in one or more of these. While these sex offender issues are bad enough we all still have unalienable rights even to challange these ordeals. While we are to obey authority even they can go a bit to far unless one fights with the sword. I’m sure Robin and Larry and others on here would back me up on this 100%.
      Which kind of offender are you? Makes one think about if we are all created equal in this vague society.

    • #39578 Reply
      James Coghill

      In Arizona all SO’s are branded with dangerous crimes against children. Yet when you arrive in prison you most likely will be classified as Non Dangerous / Non Repetitive. I guess Arizona believes they can have it both ways whenever it suits them. Is that what they really believe justice is?

    • #39598 Reply

      This is good news! It is unconstitutionally vague to be able to label someone as violent who was not violent. We need to make people aware of how often the word violent is used, when there was no violence. Good point!

    • #40592 Reply

      My sister was robbed at a bank when she was a drive- in bank teller back back about thirty years ago. That was sort of scary to her. The policy was give them the money. One can see the difference in a physical ordeal as compaired to say internet situations as compaired to actual physical encounters. Sure proteting one’s self is good in physical situations but internet sexual vagueness is a whole different story.

      Sure we all learn lessons’ but when man goes against man. in this made up fictitous situation to protect fictitious people by use of your computer chat, and use it as fact… than where is the proof. Facts and proofs are two different area’s and most all these sex deals come out with the plea deal to try to prove one is Violent and Non-Violent. All of this depends on each and everyone’s situation in these sexual ordeals. I wonder if a juicy sexual story is vague in these incounters when there was no victim. I dont’ see how the two seneiro’s mix myself so it is a bit vague to me and unconstitutional would you all agree.

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