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Stokeling v. United States

Justia Summary

Stokeling pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm and ammunition after having been convicted of a felony, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The probation office recommended the mandatory minimum 15-year prison term that the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) provides for 922(g) violators who have three previous convictions “for a violent felony.” Stokeling objected that his prior Florida robbery conviction was not a “violent felony,” which ACCA defines as “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another,” section 924(e)(2)(B)(i). The Eleventh Circuit and Supreme Court held that Stokeling qualified for the enhancement. ACCA’s elements clause encompasses a robbery offense that requires the defendant to overcome the victim’s resistance. The force necessary to overcome resistance by a victim is inherently “violent” in the sense contemplated by precedent and “suggest[s] a degree of power that would not be satisfied by the merest touching.” Stokeling’s suggested definition of “physical force” as force “reasonably expected to cause pain or injury” is inconsistent with the degree of force necessary to commit robbery at common law. The term “physical force” in ACCA encompasses the degree of force necessary to commit common-law robbery.

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