Law Offices of David G. Arganian, Seattle, WA

'Violent Crime': Fresh Interpretation by 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Court was sharply divided over the interpretation of 'violent crime' as made on Friday in the case of U.S.A. v. Anthony Raupp No. 11-2215.

Anthony Raupp had been previously convicted twice for violent crimes. Upon pleading guilty for possession of a firearm, the honorable judges in the district court declared him a "career offender" and gave him an enhanced eight-year sentence including time for 'a conspiracy to commit robbery' which the defendant insists is a 'non-violent exchange of words' and cannot be categorized as a 'violent crime.' The case went to appeal.

The appellate court held that incomplete attempts or schemes also qualify as violent crimes and upheld the decision of the district court.

Dissenting judge Diane Wood held that in order to be considered 'violent' and being sentenced upon, such a crime should 'present a serious risk of injury to another.' While both robbery and attempted robbery fulfills such a definition, the mere planning of a robbery that did not follow through with the commission of a robbery could hardly fit the definition of a 'violent crime' and attract added prison time.

According to the note in U.S.S.G. 4B1.2 relied upon by the appellate court "'Crime of violence' and 'controlled substance offense' include the offenses of aiding and abetting, conspiring, and attempting to commit such offenses." For the appellate court, the strict interpretation of the note disposed the appeal.

The appellate court noted that the defendant argued with precedents from the Supreme Court that "Conviction for attempt usually requires proof of a substantial step toward the completed crime."

However the appellate court disagreed relying more on the Guidelines than on the statute and its interpretations by previous courts. The dissenting judges held that if the lawmakers intended the new list of possible crimes that could be deduced from the guidelines as punishable offences then they would have included the note as a paragraph in the statute itself and not left it as a note.

The appellate court held that there was no conflict between the text of the statute and the accompanying note, as the text of the statute did not specifically declare whether inchoate offenses are included or excluded – however the note says they should be included.

So, under the latest interpretation of the Armed Career Criminal Act together with other relevant guidelines in Indiana's law, just discussing to purchase and use a 'controlled substance' without subsequent purchase or use of the 'controlled substance' would be a 'violent crime' attracting prison time.

We thought judges kept their chairs because the nation wishes that dead words in statutes be applied upon humans by humans using the understanding and temperance possessed by humans. For reading out statute books and stare decisis and applying them without the 'human' touch the nation does not need to pay for the salaries and upkeep of human judges: Databases would do. Database queries can substitute for arguments and search engine results substitute decisions. Why does the nation need humans to deliver judgments? Because it is a hallowed task for humans, who add that value which computers cannot bring to the equation. No wonder the court was sharply divided.

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