The United States Supreme Court decided the case of Beckles v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 886 on March 6, 2017. It held that the advisory sentencing guidelines are not subject to a void for vagueness challenge, and that the former “residual clause” of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)’s crime of violence definition is not void for vagueness. The Sixth Circuit has noted that this holding abrogates its holding in United States v. Pawlak, 822 F.3d 902 (6th Cir. 2016). United States v. Kennedy, No. 15-1456, 2017 WL 1078552 (6th Cir. Mar. 22, 2017).
What this means is that defendants sentenced under enhanced guidelines due to the former residual clause of the crime of violence definition in the guidelines cannot retroactively benefit from the rule in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). The exception to this would be to those sentenced pre-Booker when the guidelines were mandatory, not simply advisory. The guidelines have been changed so that going forward, the residual clause is not included in the crime of violence definition. The Beckles decision negatively affects those seeking resentencing under the Johnson rule in habeas corpus proceedings when their previously imposed sentences were based on guideline enhancements that relied on the residual clause of the crime of violence definition.
The knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Willey & Chamberlain know firsthand that these sentencing guideline changes affect many individuals differently and can often be confusing when trying to apply to your specific situation. If you are unsure if this ruling affects you in any way, reach out to us so that we can advise you on your rights and help you determine if it is in your best interest to take any action.