Armed Career Criminal Act (1984)

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The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) of 1984 imposes a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for anyone with at least 3 previous violent felony or serious drug offense convictions who illegally possesses a firearm. Like other “three strikes” laws, this statute was designed to deter and punish recidivism

There is no time restriction on which past offenses qualify for the purposes of the ACCA and the three offenses can result from concurrent sentences. Under these circumstances, a party who has only spent one period of time in jail can still be subject to the minimum sentence requirement of the ACCA. That said, multiple charges stemming from the same criminal action are insufficient to satisfy the 3 convictions requirement. 

The ACCA has been controversial ever since its passage and certain parts of it have since been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. In particular, the “residual clause” of the act which granted trial courts wide discretion regarding what constitutes a violent felony was deemed unconstitutionally vague and, therefore, is no longer enforceable. 

[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]