OCTOBER TERM, 2007
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
BEGAY v. UNITED STATES
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE TENTH CIRCUIT
No. 06–11543. Argued January 15, 2008—Decided April 16, 2008
The Armed Career Criminal Act (Act) imposes a special mandatory 15-
year prison term upon a felon who unlawfully possesses a firearm
and who has three or more prior convictions for committing certain
drug crimes or “a violent felony.” 18 U. S. C. §924(e)(1). The Act de-
fines “violent felony” as, inter alia, a crime punishable by more than
one year’s imprisonment that “is burglary, arson, or extortion, in-
volves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a
serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” §924(e)(2)(B)(ii)
(hereinafter clause (ii)). After petitioner Begay pleaded guilty to fel-
ony possession of a firearm, his presentence report revealed he had
12 New Mexico convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol
(DUI), which state law makes a felony (punishable by a prison term
of more than one year) the fourth (or subsequent) time an individual
commits it. Based on these convictions, the sentencing judge con-
cluded that Begay had three or more “violent felony” convictions and,
therefore, sentenced him to an enhanced 15-year sentence. The
Tenth Circuit rejected Begay’s claim that DUI is not a “violent fel-
ony” under the Act.
Held: New Mexico’s felony DUI crime falls outside the scope of the
Act’s clause (ii) “violent felony” definition. Pp. 3–10.
(a) Whether a crime is a violent