Firearms Law Falls Under High Court Vagueness Ruling

Convictions for having a firearm during a “crime of violence” can be reversed now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a similar provision for being unconstitutionally vague, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held Aug. 3.

Pablo Lovo and Joel Sorto’s convictions were based on a finding that each had a prior conviction for a felony offense that “by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”

This is nearly identical to language struck down earlier this year in Sessions v. Dimaya, which looked at a law used to deport immigrants.

When the two first appealed their convictions, the court rejected their challenges to the “crime of violence” findings.

Once Dimaya was decided, the court granted rehearing and reversed the convictions in an unsigned opinion.

It sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

An alternate definition of “crime of violence” in the statute was left untouched.

Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Patricia A. Millett heard the case, but Judge Kavanaugh, who has since been nominated to the Supreme Court, didn’t participate in the opinion.

The case is United States v. Eshetu, 2018 BL X1F2S7IBG000N, D.C. Cir., 15-3020 Consolidated with 15-3021, 15-3023, 8/3/18

To contact the reporter on this story: Alisa Johnson in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at