LEGAL THEORY Chapter 4 CASE BRIEF
553 U.S. 137, 128 S.Ct. 1581
Facts: In September 2004, New Mexico police officers received a report that Larry Begay, the petitioner here, had threatened his sister and aunt with a rifle. The police arrested him. Begay subsequently conceded he was a felon and pleaded guilty to a federal charge of unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of § 922(g)(1). Begay's presentence report said that he had been convicted a dozen times for DUI, which under New Mexico's law, becomes a felony (punishable by a prison term of more than one year) the fourth (or subsequent) time an individual commits it. (Supp.2007). The sentencing judge consequently found that Begay had at
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Additionally, if Congress meant clause (ii) to include all risky crimes, why would it have included clause (i)? A crime which has as an element the “use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force” against the person (as clause (i) specifies) is likely to create “a serious potential risk of physical injury” and would seem to fall within the scope of clause (ii). The Court concluded that the examples in clause (ii) limited the scope of the clause to crimes that are similar to the examples themselves. The Court could not agree with the Government that the word “otherwise” was sufficient to demonstrate that the examples did not limit the scope of the clause because the word “otherwise” can refer to a crime that is similar to the listed examples in some respects but different in others. The Court said DUI differed from the example crimes—burglary, arson, extortion, and crimes involving the use of explosives—in at least one respect. The listed crimes all typically involved purposeful, “violent,” and “aggressive” conduct. The Court concluded that New Mexico's crime of “driving under the influence” falls outside the scope of the Armed Career Criminal Act's clause (ii) “violent felony” definition.
Evaluation: I believe Justice Breyer is wrong and that anyone with as many convictions for driving under the influence is career criminal and a danger to society. Not only should that individual not