Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Driving under the influence of alcohol differs from 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii)'s example crimes -- burglary, arson, extortion, and crimes involving the use of explosives -- in at least one pertinent, and important, respect. The listed crimes all typically involve purposeful, "violent," and "aggressive" conduct. That conduct is such that it makes more likely that an offender, later possessing a gun, will use that gun deliberately to harm a victim. Crimes committed in such a purposeful, violent, and aggressive manner are potentially more dangerous when firearms are involved. And such crimes are characteristic of the armed career criminal, the eponym of the statute.
The Armed Career Criminal Act imposed a special mandatory 15-year prison term upon a felon who unlawfully possessed a firearm and who has three or more prior convictions for committing certain drug crimes or "a violent felony." The Act defined "violent felony" as, inter alia, a crime punishable by more than one year's imprisonment, that is, burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." After petitioner Begay pleaded guilty to felony possession of a firearm, his presentence report revealed he had 12 New Mexico convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), which state law makes a felony (punishable by a prison term of more than one year) the fourth (or subsequent) time an individual commits it. Based on these convictions, the sentencing judge concluded that Begay had three or more "violent felony" convictions and, therefore, sentenced him to an enhanced 15-year sentence. The Tenth Circuit rejected Begay's claim that DUI was not a "violent felony" under the Act. On defendant's petition, certiorari was granted.
Could DUI be considered a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act?
The court held that Mexico’s felony DUI fell outside the scope of the Act’s “violent felony” definition. It was assumed that it had been correct to hold that DUI involved conduct that presented serious potential risk of physical injury to another under § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii). But DUI was simply too unlike § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii)'s listed examples to believe that Congress intended the provision to cover it. The listed examples -- burglary, arson, extortion, or crimes involving the use of explosives -- illustrated the kinds of crimes that fell within the statute's scope. Their presence indicated that the statute covered only similar crimes, rather than every crime that presented a serious potential risk of physical injury to another. To give effect to every clause and word of § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), the examples were read as limiting the crimes that § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) covered to crimes that were roughly similar, in kind as well as in degree of risk posed, to the examples themselves. For purposes only of § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), a prior record of DUI, a strict liability crime, differed from a prior record of violent and aggressive crimes committed intentionally such as those listed, which were associated with a likelihood of future violent, aggressive, and purposeful "armed career criminal" behavior.