Recently the United States Supreme Court decided, in the case of Sessions v. Dimaya, that that the federal definition of the term “crime of violence” is unconstitutionally vague. That phrase is defined in 18 U.S.C. Section 16 (b) and may be found here. Readers may note that the definition struck down as unconstitutionally vague is identical to the definition of “crime of violence” found in 18 U.S.C. section 924, which criminalizes the act of possessing a firearm in furtherance of “drug trafficking crime” or a “crime of violence.”
The Court in Dimaya was following up on their 2015 opinion in Johnson v. United States, which struck down so called “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act on the grounds of vagueness. The Armed Career Criminal Act’s residual clause defined the term “violent felony” in such a way so as to render it void for vagueness. The Dimaya court extended that rationale to the “crime of violence” definition embedded in federal law at 18 U.S.C. Section 16(b).
Though the U.S. Supreme Court in Dimaya did not expressly rule or consider a constitutional challenge to the 924(c) provision criminalizing the possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, the reasoning employed clearly raises significant questions as to the continued vitality of that section of 924(c). It would appear it may offer relief to people indicted in Federal Court or those convicted but whose have not become final. The question as to whether it will be the basis on which to file a post conviction habeas writ for those whose convictions have become final will be the topic of a future post