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Twice recently the Supreme Court has chastised the U.S. Department of Justice for extending unlawful legislation beyond their logical application in an effort to secure a conviction. Beyond their effects for individual defendants, these choices sent a welcome message to prosecutors they should never uproot a statute from the clear context to get their guy (or girl).

Often, but, prosecutors are aided within their overreach by rules which can be therefore vaguely written that it is not yet determined just what conduct has been targeted. On Monday, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to a single such legislation, which permitted the us government to determine unlawful control of the weapon being a “violent felony” justifying an extended prison term.

The extremely ugly defendant in this situation, Samuel Johnson, is really a white supremacist from Minnesota whom pleaded accountable in 2012 to being truly a felon in control of the firearm. Beneath the Armed Career Criminal Act, he was sentenced up to a prison that is 15-year because he previously three previous “violent felonies” on their record. Johnson conceded that two of his past beliefs, for robbery and tried robbery, had been felonies that are violent. But he disputed the us government’s choice to classify a 3rd conviction, for possessing a short-barreled shotgun, being a “violent felony.”

The idea that the simple control of a firearm that is illegal a violent work defies the dictionary and common understanding, and Johnson initially argued — plausibly — it was maybe maybe maybe not. But Monday’s arguments dedicated to a wider problem: whether or not the violent felony supply within the Armed job Criminal Act had been unconstitutionally obscure. The solution is actually yes.

A list is provided by the law of crimes that qualify as violent felonies: burglary, arson, extortion or the usage of explosives. All is well so far.