United States v. Stitt, Nos. 17–765

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation202 L.Ed.2d 364,139 S.Ct. 399
Parties UNITED STATES, Petitioner v. Victor J. STITT, II. United States, Petitioner v. Jason Daniel Sims.
Decision Date10 December 2018
Docket NumberNos. 17–765,17–766.

139 S.Ct. 399
202 L.Ed.2d 364

UNITED STATES, Petitioner
v.
Victor J. STITT, II.


United States, Petitioner
v.
Jason Daniel Sims.

Nos. 17–765
17–766.

Supreme Court of the United States

Dec. 10, 2018.
Argued Oct. 9, 2018.
Decided Dec. 10, 2018.


Erica Ross, Washington, D.C., for Petitioner.

Jeffrey L. Fisher, Menlo Park, CA, appointed by this Court, for Respondents.

Noel J. Francisco, Solicitor General, John P. Cronan, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Eric J. Feigin, Erica L. Ross, Assistants to the Solicitor General, David M. Lieberman, Francesco Valentini, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Petitioner.

Stephen Newman, Federal Public Defender, Timothy C. Ivey, Catherine Adinaro, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Cleveland, OH, for Respondent Victor J. Stitt.

Chris Tarver, Federal Defender's Office, Little Rock, AR, Pamela S. Karlan, Stanford Law School, Supreme Court, Litigation Clinic, Stanford, CA, Jeffrey L. Fisher, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, Menlo Park, CA, Bradley N. Garcia, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, Washington, D.C., for Respondent Jason Daniel Sims.

Justice BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Armed Career Criminal Act requires a federal sentencing judge to impose upon certain persons convicted of unlawfully possessing a firearm a 15–year minimum prison term. The judge is to impose that special sentence if the offender also has three prior convictions for certain violent or drug-related crimes. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Those prior convictions include convictions for "burglary." § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii). And the question here is whether the statutory term "burglary" includes burglary of a structure or vehicle that has been adapted or is customarily

139 S.Ct. 404

used for overnight accommodation. We hold that it does.

I

The consolidated cases before us involve two defendants, each of whom was convicted in a federal court of unlawfully possessing a firearm in violation of § 922(g)(1). The maximum punishment for this offense is typically 10 years in prison. § 924(a)(2). Each offender, however, had prior state burglary convictions sufficient, at least potentially, to require the sentencing judge to impose a mandatory 15–year minimum prison term under the Armed Career Criminal Act. That Act, as we have just said, requires an enhanced sentence for offenders who have at least three previous convictions for certain "violent" or drug-related felonies. § 924(e)(1). Those prior felonies include "any crime" that is "punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" and that also

"(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or

"(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." § 924(e)(2)(B) (emphasis added).

The question here concerns the scope of the statutory word "burglary."

The relevant prior convictions of one of the unlawful firearms offenders, Victor J. Stitt, were for violations of a Tennessee statute that defines "[a]ggravated burglary" as "burglary of a habitation." Tenn. Code Ann. § 39–14–403(a) (1997). It further defines "[h]abitation" to include: (1) "any structure, including ... mobile homes, trailers, and tents, which is designed or adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons, " and (2) any "self-propelled vehicle that is designed or adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons and is actually occupied at the time of initial entry by the defendant." §§ 39–14–401(1)(A), (B) (emphasis added).

The relevant prior convictions of the other unlawful firearms offender, Jason Daniel Sims, were for violations of an Arkansas statute that prohibits burglary of a "residential occupiable structure." Ark. Code Ann. § 5–39–201(a)(1) (Michie 1997). The statute defines "[r]esidential occupiable structure" to include:

"a vehicle, building, or other structure:

"(A) [w]here any person lives; or

"(B) [w]hich is customarily used for overnight accommodation of persons whether or not a person is actually present." § 5–39–101(1) (emphasis added).

In both cases, the District Courts found that the state statutory crimes fell within the scope of the word "burglary" in the Armed Career Criminal Act and consequently imposed that statute's mandatory sentence enhancement. In both cases, the relevant Federal Court of Appeals held that the statutory crimes did not fall within the scope of the word "burglary," vacated the sentence, and remanded for resentencing. See 860 F.3d 854 (C.A.6 2017) (en banc) (reversing panel decision to the contrary); 854 F.3d 1037 (C.A.8 2017).

The Government asked us to grant certiorari to consider the question "[w]hether burglary of a nonpermanent or mobile structure that is adapted or used for overnight accommodation can qualify as ‘burglary’ under the Armed Career Criminal Act." Pet. for Cert. in No. 17–765, p. i; Pet. for Cert. in No. 17–766, p. i. And, in light of uncertainty about the scope of the term "burglary" in the lower courts, we granted the Government's request. Compare 860 F.3d, at 862–863, 854 F.3d, at 1040; United States v. White, 836 F.3d 437, 446 (C.A.4 2016) ; United States v. Grisel, 488 F.3d 844 (C.A.9 2007) (en

139 S.Ct. 405

banc), with Smith v. United States, 877 F.3d 720, 724 (C.A.7 2017), cert. pending, No. 17–7517; United States v. Spring, 80 F.3d 1450, 1462 (C.A.10 1996).

II

A

The word "burglary," like the word "crime" itself, is ambiguous. It might refer to a kind of crime, a generic crime, as set forth in a statute ("a burglary consists of behavior that ..."), or it might refer to the way in which an individual offender acted on a particular occasion ("on January 25, Jones committed a burglary on Oak Street in South San Francisco"). We have held that the words in the Armed Career Criminal Act do the first. Accordingly, we have held that the Act requires us to evaluate a prior state conviction "in terms of how the law defines the offense and not in terms of how an individual offender might have committed it on a particular occasion." Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137, 141, 128 S.Ct. 1581, 170 L.Ed.2d 490 (2008). A prior state conviction, we have said, does not qualify as generic burglary under the Act where "the elements of [the relevant state statute] are broader than those of generic burglary." Mathis v. United States, 579 U.S. ––––, ––––, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2257, 195 L.Ed.2d 604 (2016). The case in which we first adopted this "categorical approach" is Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 110 S.Ct. 2143, 109 L.Ed.2d 607 (1990). That case, which specifically considered the statutory term "burglary," governs here and determines the outcome.

In Taylor, we did more than hold that the word "burglary" refers to a kind of generic crime rather than to the defendant's behavior on a particular occasion. We also explained, after examining the Act's history and purpose, that Congress intended a "uniform definition of burglary [to] be applied to all cases in which the Government seeks"...

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198 practice notes
  • Greer v. United States, No. 16-4755
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • September 12, 2019
    ...of the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA") in light of recent Supreme Court guidance. See, e.g. , United States v. Stitt , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 399, 202 L.Ed.2d 364 (2018). The district court held that petitioner Tracy Greer’s aggravated burglary convictions qualified as "violent feloni......
  • Mitchell v. Warden, FCI-Greenville, Case No. 19-cv-0539-RJD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • November 8, 2019
    ...Though Respondent recognizes Naylor's existence, he argues that the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in United States v. Stitt, 139 S. Ct. 399 (2018) effectively abrogated Naylor and dictates a different result here. (Doc. 19, p. 32, n. 8, pp. 34-42). At issue in Stitt were Tennessee and......
  • United States v. Pena, No. 17-4778
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 11, 2020
    ...or structure" falls within generic burglary. Id . at 1875 (emphasis in original). Then, in United States v. Stitt , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 399, 202 L.Ed.2d 364 (2018), the Supreme Court concluded generic burglary includes "vehicles designed or adapted for overnight use." Stitt , 139 S. C......
  • United States v. Gary, No. 18-4578
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 25, 2020
    ...United States v. White , 836 F.3d 437, 443–44 (4th Cir. 2016), abrogated on other grounds by United States v. Stitt , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 399, 202 L.Ed.2d 364 (2018).4 Gary also states that the government’s omission of the knowledge-of-status element from his indictment further suppor......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
196 cases
  • Greer v. United States, No. 16-4755
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • September 12, 2019
    ...of the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA") in light of recent Supreme Court guidance. See, e.g. , United States v. Stitt , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 399, 202 L.Ed.2d 364 (2018). The district court held that petitioner Tracy Greer’s aggravated burglary convictions qualified as "violent feloni......
  • Mitchell v. Warden, FCI-Greenville, Case No. 19-cv-0539-RJD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • November 8, 2019
    ...Though Respondent recognizes Naylor's existence, he argues that the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in United States v. Stitt, 139 S. Ct. 399 (2018) effectively abrogated Naylor and dictates a different result here. (Doc. 19, p. 32, n. 8, pp. 34-42). At issue in Stitt were Tennessee and......
  • United States v. Pena, No. 17-4778
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 11, 2020
    ...or structure" falls within generic burglary. Id . at 1875 (emphasis in original). Then, in United States v. Stitt , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 399, 202 L.Ed.2d 364 (2018), the Supreme Court concluded generic burglary includes "vehicles designed or adapted for overnight use." Stitt , 139 S. C......
  • United States v. Gary, No. 18-4578
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 25, 2020
    ...United States v. White , 836 F.3d 437, 443–44 (4th Cir. 2016), abrogated on other grounds by United States v. Stitt , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 399, 202 L.Ed.2d 364 (2018).4 Gary also states that the government’s omission of the knowledge-of-status element from his indictment further suppor......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • THE TRAJECTORY OF FEDERAL GUN CRIMES.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 Nbr. 3, February 2022
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Ct. 2272 (2016); Beckles v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 886 (2017); Dean v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1170 (2017); United States v. Stitt, 139 S. Ct. 399 (2018); Stokeling v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 544 (2019); Quarles v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 1872 (2019); Rehaif v. United States, 139 S......

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