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Quarles v. United States

United States Supreme Court

June 10, 2019

JAMAR ALONZO QUARLES, PETITIONER
v.
UNITED STATES

          Argued April 24, 2019

          ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

         When petitioner Jamar Quarles pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1), he also appeared to qualify for enhanced sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act because he had at least three prior "violent felony" convictions, §924(e). He claimed, however, that a 2002 Michigan conviction for third-degree home invasion did not qualify, even though §924(e) defines "violent felony" to include "burglary," and the generic statutory term "burglary" means "unlawful or unprivileged entry into, or remaining in, a building or structure, with intent to commit a crime," Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 599 (emphasis added). Quarles argued that Michigan's third-degree home invasion statute- which applies when a person "breaks and enters a dwelling or enters a dwelling without permission and, at any time while he or she is entering, present in, or exiting the dwelling, commits a misdemeanor," Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §750.110a(4)(a) (emphasis added)-swept too broadly. Specifically, he claimed, it encompassed situations where the defendant forms the intent to commit a crime at any time while unlawfully remaining in a dwelling, while generic remaining-in burglary occurs only when the defendant has the intent to commit a crime at the exact moment when he or she first unlawfully remains in a building or structure. The District Court rejected that argument, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

         Held:

1. Generic remaining-in burglary occurs under §924(e) when the defendant forms the intent to commit a crime at any time while unlawfully remaining in a building or structure. In ordinary usage, "remaining-in" refers to a continuous activity, and this Court has followed that ordinary meaning in analogous legal contexts, see, e.g., United States v. Cores, 356 U.S. 405, 408. Those contexts thus inform the interpretation of "remaining-in" burglary in §924(e): The common understanding of "remaining in" as a continuous event means that burglary occurs for purposes of §924(e) if the defendant forms the intent to commit a crime at any time during the continuous event of unlawfully remaining in a building or structure. The intent to commit a crime must be contemporaneous with unlawful entry or remaining, but the defendant's intent is contemporaneous with the unlawful remaining so long as the defendant forms the intent at any time while unlawfully remaining. That conclusion is supported by the body of state law as of 1986, when Congress enacted §924(e). Quarles' narrow interpretation makes little sense in light of Congress' rationale for specifying burglary as a violent felony. Congress "singled out burglary" because of its "inherent potential for harm to persons," Taylor, 495 U.S., at 588, and the possibility of a violent confrontation does not depend on the exact moment when the burglar forms the intent to commit a crime while unlawfully present in a building or structure. Quarles' interpretation would also thwart the stated goals of the Armed Career Criminal Act by presumably eliminating many States' burglary statutes as predicate offenses under §924(e). Pp. 3-9.
2. For the Court's purposes here, the Michigan home-invasion statute substantially corresponds to or is narrower than generic burglary. The conclusion that generic remaining-in burglary occurs when the defendant forms the intent to commit a crime at any time while unlawfully remaining in a building or structure resolves this case. When deciding whether a state law is broader than generic burglary, the state law's "exact definition or label" does not control. Taylor, 495 U.S., at 599. So long as the state law in question "substantially corresponds" to (or is narrower than) generic burglary, the conviction qualifies. Ibid. Pp. 9-10.

850 F.3d 836, affirmed.

          KAVANAUGH, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion.

          OPINION

          KAVANAUGH JUSTICE

         Section 924(e) of Title 18, also known as the Armed Career Criminal Act, mandates a minimum 15-year prison sentence for a felon who unlawfully possesses a firearm and has three prior convictions for a "serious drug offense" or "violent felony." Section 924(e) defines "violent felony" to include "burglary." Under this Court's 1990 decision in Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, the generic statutory term "burglary" means "unlawful or unprivileged entry into, or remaining in, a building or structure, with intent to commit a crime." Id., at 599 (emphasis added).

         The exceedingly narrow question in this case concerns remaining-in burglary. The question is whether remaining-in burglary (i) occurs only if a person has the intent to commit a crime at the exact moment when he or she first unlawfully remains in a building or structure, or (ii) more broadly, occurs when a person forms the intent to commit a crime at any time while unlawfully remaining in a building or structure. For purposes of §924(e), we conclude that remaining-in burglary occurs when the defendant forms the intent to commit a crime at any time while unlawfully remaining in a building or structure. We affirm the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

         I

         On August 24, 2013, police officers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, responded to a 911 call. When the officers arrived at the scene, the caller, Chasity Warren, told the officers that she had just escaped from her boyfriend, Jamar Quarles. Warren said that Quarles had threatened her at gunpoint and also hit her. While the police officers were speaking with Warren, Quarles drove by. The officers then arrested Quarles and later searched his house. Inside they found a semiautomatic pistol.

         Quarles pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1). Quarles had at least three prior convictions that appeared to qualify as violent felonies under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. §924(e). Those three convictions were: (1) a 2002 Michigan conviction for third-degree home invasion stemming from an attempt to chase down an ex-girlfriend who had sought refuge in a nearby apartment; (2) a 2004 Michigan conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon based on an incident where Quarles held a gun to the head of another ex-girlfriend and threatened to kill her; and (3) a ...


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