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SCOTUS adopts broader ACCA definition of “remaining-in” burglary

Quarles v. United States, No. 17-778, 6/10/19, affirming United States v. Quarles, 850 F.3d 836 (6th Cir. 2017); Scotusblog page (including links to briefs and commentary)

Quarles was convicted of home invasion in Michigan. When he was later charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, that ealier conviction became one of the prior offenses that dramatically increased his sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The question here is whether, under SCOTUS’s “categorical approach,” the Michigan home invasion statute qualifies as a generic burglary.

Quarles asserts that it does not. Like many states, Michigan criminalizes unlawfully remaining in a building with intent to commit a crime, even if the initial entry was lawful. Quarles argues that the Michigan law doesn’t require the criminal intent be present at the first moment of unlawful remaining–something he says is a feature of generic burglary.

In a crisp 10-page decision, the court unanimously disagrees. There’s some statutory construction and some Blackstone, but the main thrust is that Quarles’ position just doesn’t make a lot of sense–“remaining” isn’t a discrete, instantaneous act but something you do over some stretch of time. So, as long as you’re still wherever you’re not supposed to be when you form the intent to commit a crime, the mens rea and the actus reus coincide.

Justice Thomas concurs, expressing his view that the categorical approach itself is ill-considered.

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