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What Is the Armed Career Criminal Act?


The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) is a federal law that increases the mandatory sentencing for individuals with three or more convictions of felony violent crimes and/or drug offenses. Under this statute, if this person is accused and found guilty of unlawfully possessing a firearm, they face a minimum prison term of 15 years.

According to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B), a violent crime includes an offense that has as a penalty imprisonment of more than one year.

Additionally, the offense:

  • Must contain an element of attempted or threatened use of force against another individual, or
  • Is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves explosives, or may cause serious bodily injury to another

The ACCA allows courts to look at a defendant’s criminal history to determine if they are considered a career offender.

Burglary and the ACCA in Wisconsin

Recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard a question from the Seventh Circuit as to whether burglary committed in overlapping locations could be considered under the ACCA, as the state’s law uses broad language to define the offense. The court ruled it cannot.

Specifically, the statute prohibits individuals from entering a building, enclosed railroad car, enclosed portion of a ship or vessel, locked trunk, motor home, or a room in any of the above locations to commit a felony offense. The law also criminalizes possessing a dangerous weapon, arming oneself with a dangerous weapon, attempting to use explosives, commits battery on an inhabitant while in one of the above locations.

Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that when there are multiple locations, as in Wisconsin’s statute, that count as different elements, then the law is divisible and an offense counts as one crime. In such cases, the ACCA applies. However, if the elements of the law are non-divisible, an offense cannot be considered when determining sentencing.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the different locations in the state’s law are a single element of burglary. Justice Dallet reasoned that if a person was charged for the offense based on each element, they could be at risk of facing trial for the same crime twice – double jeopardy – which is unconstitutional.

Discuss Your Case with the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella

If you were accused of committing a crime, it is crucial to have a skilled lawyer on your side to fight charges. A conviction could result not only in jail or prison time but could be used to determine sentencing if a future offense is committed. Our lawyer has over 25 years of experience and knows what it takes to obtain favorable outcomes in various criminal cases. We will provide the effective and aggressive defense you need to challenge the evidence presented against you.

Discuss your case with our seasoned attorney today by calling us at (414) 882-8382 or contacting us online.

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