Dec 5, 2010

definition of "violent felonies"

The January / February 2011 LD resolution asks us to consider treating as adults those juveniles who have been charged with "violent felonies."

In U.S. law, what constitutes a "violent felony?" We can look to federal statutes for the most widely applicable definition. According to Section 924(e)(2) of Title 18 of US Code (a section added under the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984),
(B) the term "violent felony" means any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or any act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device that would be punishable by imprisonment for such term if committed by an adult, that -
(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or
(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another
Note the dual criteria for the phrase. First, the punishment must meet a precise minimum of severity, and second, that the crime itself involves force or the threat (or even "serious potential risk") of force or injury.

In U.S. sentencing guidelines, felonies range from Class E (1-5 year sentence) to Class A (life imprisonment or the death penalty). Examples of violent felonies include murder, kidnapping, arson, crimes against children, armed robbery, aggravated assault, rape, firearm use in certain cases, or firearm possession in certain cases.

Lastly, it's probably preferable to use define this legal term of art as a phrase, rather than by combining dictionary definitions, since it'll help clarify the debate and place it into a specific, research-ready legal context.


Salamanders on Strike said...

It's actually Section 924(e)(2), not (a)(2)

Jim Anderson said...

Thanks--corrected it.

Salamanders on Strike said...

No prob Mr A

Anonymous said...

Where'd you find the examples for violent felonies? Did you make these yourself or are they provided somewhere?

Because, strictly according to this definition which defines violent felonies as something that poses serious threat or injury to a person, rape isn't technically considered a violent felony. Sure, it's mentally and pathologically scarring, but in terms of physical injury, rape (unless combined with assault or other obvious violent gesture) on its own doesn't involve much physical injury. So even though it seems logical to assume rape is a violent felony, strictly according to this definition, a clever debater could argue that rape doesn't fall under "violent felony"

Jim Anderson said...

By focusing on the second subsection, you're missing the first part of the definition:

"...(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or..."

That "or" is critical. The crime in question need not cause actual bodily injury, or even employ actual force. It needs merely have the "use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force."

Under that criterion, rape, often termed "first-degree sexual assault," would be considered a violent felony.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous on his (it's gotta be a he)opinion that "rape doesn't involve much physical injury", you know not AT ALL of what you speak, moron.