ACCA Measure Would Restore Tool for Prosecutors to Go After Violent, Repeat Offenders

As part of National Police Week, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) helped introduce the Restoring the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), a measure to improve public safety by reinstating an important tool for prosecutors to be able to seek enhanced penalties against violent, repeat offenders.

The legislation (S.1586), introduced by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), would correct shortcomings identified by the U.S. Supreme Court in the original Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984.

“At a time when crime rates are increasing across the country, we need to do all we can to ensure prosecutors and judges have the tools they need to keep the most violent, serial offenders off the streets,” Hyde-Smith said. “This legislation would do just that by fixing shortcomings in an older law that attempted to address how to protect the public from those who repeatedly commit serious felonies.”

The bill corrects a “vagueness” error identified in 2015 by the Supreme Court by doing away with concepts of “violent felony” and “serious drug offense” and replacing them with a single category of “serious felony.”  The change would add certainty and clarity to federal sentencing for armed criminals.  The measure would also provide federal prosecutors an additional tool to go after the most dangerous, career criminals and would not apply to low-level offenders.

The National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Association of Police Organizations endorse this legislation.

“When the Supreme Court effectively voided the ACCA in its decision in Johnson v. United States in 2015 due to part of the definition of ‘violent felony’ being unconstitutionally vague, it took away an important tool that law enforcement used to get the worst career criminals off our streets.  The Restoring the Armed Career Criminal Act will fix the ACCA by using a specific definition for ‘serious felony’ and restore the Act, thus giving prosecutors and law enforcement back a significant resource in the fight against violent crime,” said William J. Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations.

Review the text of the Restoring the Armed Career Criminal Act here.

This week, Hyde-Smith also became an original cosponsor of the Back the Blue Act (S.1599), a measure to increase the penalties for criminals who intentionally target law enforcement officers and provide new tools for officers to protect themselves.  Background on the Back to Blue Act is available here.

Press Release

5/14/2021