Resolving the Post-Begay Maelstrom Statutory Rape as a Violent Felony Under the Armed Career Criminal Act
The Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), enacted in 1984, mandates a minimum fifteen-year sentence for defendants who unlawfully possess a firearm and who also have three prior convictions for violent felonies and/or serious drug offenses. Since its inception, the ACCA has presented a weighty problem: what constitutes a "violent" felony? The United States Supreme Court has made an effort to allay the confusion, most recently in its decision in Begay v. United States, requiring that violent felonies be purposefully violent or aggressive. This Note questions the reasoning of circuit courts that have disallowed statutory rape as a violent felony post-Begay, a stance that has generally been supported by the argument that, as a strict liability crime that is often "consensual," a statutory rape cannot be uniformly typified as "purposeful" or "aggressive." Rather than construing the acquiescence of a minor to intercourse as "consent" that negates the aggression required under Begay, the focus of the courts should instead be on the reason that the legislatures in all states have rendered sex with a minor a strict liability crime: a child lacks the ability to give any legally-cognizable consent. This well-settled rule of law should create a presumption that, if an adult knowingly engages in sexual intercourse with a minor below the age of consent, such intercourse is inevitably the result of a purposeful "aggression" against the child on the part of the offender. Such a presumption is implied by the nature of the crime itself and by the manner in which the states have drafted their statutory rape legislation. Adopting this rule would remedy the post-Begay confusion with regards to strict liability sex crimes that center on the inability of the victims to form consent. In furtherance of this view, Part II of this Note seeks to define statutory rape in light of how the elements differ by jurisdiction. Part III explores the legislative history of the ACCA's enhanced sentencing provisions and its definition of violent felonies for the purpose of enhanced sentencing, and compares this language to that of other federal sentencing guidelines. Part IV describes the United States Supreme Court rulings in Begay v. United States and Chambers v. United States and how these cases have contributed to the ongoing evolution of the definition of a "violent felony" or a "crime of violence." Part V examines statutory rape as a predicate violent felony and proposes a rule that would, in accordance with Begay, presume aggression in the absence of consent. Part VI considers the serious risks of physical harm to minors that may result from sexual activity with an adult offender, and why these risks should render statutory rape a predicate violent felony under the ACCA. Part VII concludes.
Note, Resolving the Post-Begay Maelstrom Statutory Rape as a Violent Felony Under the Armed Career Criminal Act , 60 Clev. St. L. Rev. 507 (2012)