Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Johnson: Florida battery is a "violent felony" for ACCA

In U.S. v. Johnson, No. 07-13497 (May 30, 2008), the Court held that a defendant’s prior Florida state conviction for battery qualifies as a "violent felony" for purposes of the ACCA mandatory minimum for felon in possession of ammunition offenders who have three prior convictions.
The Court noted that the Florida battery offense requires at a minimum the actual and intentional touching or striking of another person against that other person’s will. Accordingly, the offense has the requisite use or attempted use of force necessary to qualify as a "violent felony." The Court rejected the argument that the Florida battery offense should not be considered a "violent felony" because the Florida Supreme Court had held that under Florida state law, when, as in Johnson’s case, the battery had been a misdemeanor elevated to the status of a felony, the offense did not invariably enough involve enough force to be considered a "forcible felony" for purposes of Florida’s habitual offender law. First, the Florida Supreme Court case had been decided 19 days before the Eleventh Circuit’s own prior interpretation of the Florida battery statute, and even though the Eleventh Circuit might have overlooked the case, it now remained bound by its own precedent. Second, the Florida case involve state law, not federal law, and the Court remained bound by its prior holding that "touching" or "striking" suffices to establish the element of force needed to trigger the ACCA enhancement.