Bright Lines, Dark Deeds: Counting Convictions Under the Armed Career Criminal Act

The Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA) enables the federal government to help state authorities more effectively prosecute “career criminals.” The ACCA imposes a mandatory sentence of at least fifteen years, and up to life imprisonment, for illegal possession of a firearm by anyone who has three prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses “committed on occasions different from one another.”

To apply the ACCA, judges must determine first whether the defendant’s prior convictions meet the definitions of “violent felony or serious drug offense,” and secondly whether the offenses were committed on different occasions so that they count separately toward armed career criminal status. This Note focuses on the latter analysis – conviction counting.