SCOTUS Opinion: Court Broadens Definition Of Generic Burglary Under Armed Career Criminal Act

After Jamar Quarles pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, prosecutors sought to give him an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act because he had at least three prior “violent felony” convictions. The Act defines “burglary” as being a violent felony, meaning “unlawful or unprivileged entry into, or remaining in, a building or structure, with intent to commit a crime.” Quarles argued that his conviction under Michigan’s third-degree home invasion statute did not qualify as a violent felony, because it applies when a person forms the intent to commit a crime at any time while unlawfully entering or remaining in a building. Quarles claimed that Michigan’s law was broader than the generic definition of burglary, since, in his view, the generic definition required criminal intent at the exact moment when the felon first unlawfully remains in the building, not at any time. The district court disagreed with Quarles, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Kavanaugh, affirmed, holding in Quarles v. United States that the generic definition of burglary included intent to commit a crime at any time while unlawfully remaining in a building, since “remaining in” indicates a continuous event. While intent must be contemporaneous with respect to an unlawful entry, it need not be so for remaining on the property unlawfully. Thus, Michigan’s home invasion statute substantially corresponded to generic burglary, which made it a violent felony qualifying Quarles to enhanced sentencing under the Act. Justice Thomas submitted a short concurrence to question the categorical approach the Court uses to determine whether a state offense qualifies as a violent felony under the Act. A link to the opinion is here.