Volume 57

Time and Punishment: How the ACCA Unjustly Creates a "One-Day Career Criminal"

by Aliza Hochman Bloom

In 2017, Adam Longoria was sentenced pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) to a fifteen-year term of imprisonment. The ACCA imposes a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence for any defendant who knowingly possesses a firearm and has three previous convictions for a “violent felony,” “serious drug offense,” or both, “committed on occasions different from one another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). In Mr. Longoria’s case, the ACCA enhancement was based upon two drug sales committed within the temporal span of a related drug conspiracy. In 2010, he pled guilty to these three interrelated counts in federal court and was sentenced in one judgment later that year. Six years later, his live-in girlfriend tried to sell a gun on Facebook, and Mr. Longoria was charged with constructive possession of a firearm. Because Mr. Longoria’s three interrelated counts from the 2010 drug conspiracy were counted as three serious drug offenses “committed on occasions different from one another,” he was sentenced pursuant to the ACCA’s fifteen-year mandatory minimum.

On appeal, Mr. Longoria argued that because the two 2010 sales occurred within the temporal span of the related drug conspiracy and arose out of one criminal episode, these three counts had not occurred on “occasions different from one another.” The Eleventh Circuit rejected his argument, deciding in 2017 that Mr. Longoria had admitted to sufficient facts during his 2010 guilty plea to conclude that these three counts were sufficiently distinct to be three qualifying ACCA predicate offenses. The Supreme Court declined review. Accordingly, Mr. Longoria will serve fifteen years in prison based on three drug counts for which he was sentenced on one day in 2010, comprised of two sales within a related ongoing conspiracy. The ACCA, intended by Congress as an enhancement for violent criminals, was imposed upon Mr. Longoria, a “one-day career criminal,” without any violent prior convictions.

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