Published on: Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Supreme Court will take up yet another dispute involving the oft-litigated Armed Career Criminal Act, this time in relation to frequently changing federal drug laws.

The law at issue in the pair of cases granted Monday imposes a mandatory 15-year minimum for certain firearms offenses in which a defendant previously has been convicted of “serious drug offenses.”

The court granted review on the question of how to determine when changes to federal drug schedules means that prior convictions for state offenses are no longer “serious drug offense[s]” for purposes of sentencing enhancements under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Somewhat surprisingly, the court took both the case the government recommended, Jackson v. United States, as well as a second case, Brown v. United States, and consolidated both cases for one hour of argument.

In one of the cases, Brown v. United States, Justin Rashaad Brown was sentenced to the 15-year minimum even though the government had decriminalized hemp by the time of his firearm conviction.

The court will weigh whether courts should look to drug laws in place at the time of the firearms conviction to determine if a defendant is eligible for the tougher sentence, or whether courts should look to laws in place at the time of the previous drug offenses.