January 16, 2019 Practice Points

SCOTUS Considers Degrees of Force in ACCA Decision

Florida’s robbery statute was at issue in Stokeling v. United States.

By Sanford Hausler

On January 15, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Stokeling v. United States. The question raised in the case was whether a state robbery offense that includes "as an element" the common-law requirement of overcoming "victim resistance" qualifies categorically as a "violent felony" under the only remaining definition of that term in the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i) (an offense that "has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another"), if the offense has been specifically interpreted by state appellate courts to require only slight force to overcome resistance. The Court found by a 5–4 majority that it did. Justice Thomas wrote the majority decision, joined by Justices Breyer, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Justice Sotomayor dissented, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg and Kagan.

Sanford Hausler is of counsel with Cox Padmore Skolnik & Shakarchy LLP in New York, New York.

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