Brief for National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner.
Argument: If this Court were to hold that an offense with a mens rea of recklessness qualifies as a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), it would expand the reach of ACCA’s severe sentencing consequences to defendants whose predicate offenses bear little, if any, resemblance to the knowing and purposeful acts of violence Congress intended to target. Such a broad application of ACCA is wrong as a matter of law, and it would result in unjust and disproportionate sentences for defendants nationwide. ACCA’s force clause does not reach reckless offenses. The text of ACCA’s force clause, like the clause at issue in Leocal and unlike the clause in Voisine, does not cover reckless offenses. Excluding reckless offenses comports with ACCA’s purpose, in contrast to the gun-control provision in Voisine. ACCA should not apply to reckless offenses absent a clear indication from congress. The court has at least as much reason to apply lenity here as it did in Leocal. Application of the rule of lenity here would avoid the pernicious effects of a broad reading of ACCA.