The United States Sentencing Commission writes the Sentencing Guidelines which are the starting point for all federal sentences. The Guidelines define the term “crime of violence” in part through a “residual clause” that embraces any conviction involving a “serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” If you have two or more of these as prior crimes, you may face mandatory minimums and a long, long Guideline sentence. But the Supreme Court last spring struck down an identically-worded clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act as unconstitutionally vague and now the Sentencing Commission seems poised to do the same by eliminating the residual clause from the Guidelines too.
To that end, attorney Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma will testify before the Commission in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, November 5 at a public hearing to consider whether the residual clause should be eliminated, how crimes of violence should be defined, and whether any such changes should be made retroactive, i.e. should give prisoners a chance to shorten their sentences.
Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma will speak on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which is the leading organization of criminal lawyers in the United States and represents around 40,000 lawyers through 90 state, provincial, and local affiliates. He joins distinguished defense lawyers, prosecutors and jurists who will be providing their views on the proposed changes. The testimony will be live streamed through the Commission’s website. The NACDL’s written testimony will be made public on Thursday morning.