Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Begay Has No Impact on ACCA Listed Offenses

US v. Thompson: Thompson pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing, the Government argued that his six prior North Carolina convictions for "breaking or entering" were crimes of violence and thus Thompson should be sentenced as an Armed Career Criminal. The district court disagreed, concluding that under the Supreme Court's decision in Begay "violent felonies" under the ACCA must have "an element that demonstrates the likelihood that an assailant would come in contact with another person" and that Thompson's prior convictions did not meet that test. The district court sentenced Thompson to 92 months in prison.

The Government appealed and the Fourth Circuit unanimously reversed. The court noted that in pre-Begay cases (Bowden and Thompson) it had held that North Carolina "breaking or entering" convictions were violent felonies under the ACCA. The court concluded that Begay did not upset its prior holdings because its analysis is concerned with crimes other than the ones specifically listed as being violent felonies. Thompson's convictions, which meet the generic definition of "burglary", a specifically listed offense, therefore qualify as violent felonies.

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