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In a case that many of you have been waiting on, the U.S. Supreme Court held today in Borden v. United States, 2021 U.S. LEXIS 2990 (June 10, 2021), that a violent crime that has only a mens rea of recklessness does not qualify under the ACCA. Below is an overview of the Court’s decision; an in-depth review of the case will be forthcoming this week, once we have time to digest all of it.

The case involved an ACCA sentence out of the Sixth Circuit that was based on several prior convictions, including one for aggravated assault under Tenn. Code 39-13-102(a)(1)(B). The defendant had argued in the courts below that this prior conviction could not qualify under the ACCA because it may be committed with only an intent of mere recklessness and doesn’t require proof that the offender intended the use of force against a particular person. This argument was rejected and the ACCA sentence was affirmed.

The Supreme Court, however, granted the petition for certiorari in March 2020 and heard oral argument last November. On June 10, 2021, the Court held that a criminal offense with a mens rea of recklessness cannot qualify as a “violent felony” under the ACCA’s elements clause. The Court reasoned that the elements clause “suggests a higher degree of intent” than negligence/recklessness, and that the purpose of the ACCA was to mark out a narrow category of violent crimes. This requires a purposeful or knowing mental state of the defendant, rather than mere indifference to risk, the Court said.

The Court echoed its sentiments made in Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008), where the Court said that the ACCA’s purpose was to target a “particular type of offender,” and not the negligent and reckless acts of someone. These types of offenders have not been shown to lean toward future dangerousness, the Court said, holding that a simple DUI offense was not enough to support an ACCA sentence.

This is just a quick reading of the bullet-points of Borden and we will have more to come in this wide-reaching case (i.e, it isn’t limited to just Tenn. aggravated assault priors).

Much respect,

Brandon Sample, PLC
A Federal Law Firm

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