On March 6, 2017 the United States Supreme Court handed down its’ decision in Beckles v. United States. The decision was a disappointment to many who were hoping to extend Johnson v. United States to career offender guideline cases. In fact, prior to the decision in Beckles, most federal appellate courts determined that Johnson did, in fact, apply to career offender cases. But, in a significant turn of events, the Supreme Court determined that the guidelines are not susceptible to constitutional void-for-vagueness claims. As a result, those individuals with petitions pending under 2255 or who were not yet re-sentenced after remand are left to determine if there is any hope in continuing their argument. While, Beckles will end many bids for reduced sentences, all hope is not lost.
Depending on the status of your case, their may be additional arguments to be made to preserve your Johnson claims.
Here are a few instances:
- If you were sentenced prior to Booker v United States (2005) when the sentencing guidelines were still mandatory you may still be able maintain an action under Johnson.
- If you were sentenced after Booker, but before the August 1, 2016, amendments to the career offender guidelines you may still argue that the predicate crime does not qualify under the residual clause, force clause or the enumerated offenses clause.
These issues are now more complicated than before, and it is important to seek experienced counsel to guide you through the arguments. In any event, unless there is some tactical advantage to giving up your claims (e.g. individuals seeking relief in their first petition under 2255), you should continue to argue for appropriate relief, including challenging the reasonableness of your sentence.
It is imperative to seek an attorney’s advice immediately on these issues.