Criminal Defense Attorneys in North and South Carolina


Criminal Defense Attorneys in North and South Carolina


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Armed Career criminal act in Federal CourtArmed Career Criminal Act

The Armed Career Criminal Act provides sentences enhancements under certain circumstances for repeat offenders. This blog explores the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Federal criminal charges usually have more severe consequences than state criminal charges.  This is not because the elements of the crimes are vastly different.  The distinction effectively comes down to punishment and sentencing.  Federal crimes, for the most part, just have much harsher sentencing requirements and mandatory minimums.

A criminal defense attorney who practices both at the state and federal level would be able to give you more information about this.

State Sentencing vs. Federal Sentencing

In North Carolina, misdemeanor convictions follow the North Carolina Misdemeanor sentencing chart; felony convictions follow the North Carolina felony sentencing chart.  Federal crimes, however, follow the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which are vastly different.  Besides being complicated to understand and navigate, the biggest difference is the wide array of sentencing enhancements that occur in federal court. One such enhancement is the Armed Career Criminal Act, which we will talk about in this blog.

What is the Armed Career Criminal Act?

The Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA) is a U.S federal law that provides sentence enhancements for felons who commit crimes with firearms, if convicted of certain crimes three or more times. This law imposes special mandatory prison term of fifteen years on a felon who unlawfully possessed firearm, and has had three or more previous convictions for “violent felony” among others.

  • This just provides for a minimum. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the underlying charges the total certain can be life in prison.
  • Please note that the Armed Career Criminal Act is different from standard firearm enhancements (click here to learn more about federal firearm enhancements in felony sentencing).

What is a violent felony?

The Armed Career Criminal Act defines a “violent felony” as any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year that:

  • Has as an element requiring the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or
  • Is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.

This means that a very wide variety of prior convictions could be considered under this law.

What is the purpose of this law?

The Armed Career Criminal Act was enacted to hone in on the inherent danger present when a particular type of offender like a violent criminal or drug trafficker possesses a gun. In order to determine which offenders fall into this category, the Act looks to past crimes. This is because an offender’s criminal history is relevant to the question of whether he is what is considered to be a career criminal, or, more precisely, to the kind or degree of danger the offender would pose were he to possess a gun.


If you or a loved one has been charged with a federal crime, contact us.  Gilles Law handles federal criminal defense in North Carolina, as well as federal criminal defense in South Carolina.  We handle issues involving sentencing enhancements as well as a wide variety of issues involving federal crime.

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