Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lockett: South Carolina "burglary" indivisible

In U.S. v. Lockett, No. 14-15084 (Jan. 21, 2016), the Court vacated the sentence of a defendant sentenced as an armed career criminal under ACCA. Lockett argued that his two prior conviction for “burglary” in South Carolina did not count as predicate “violent felony” offenses. The Court agreed. Noting that Descamps requires that a sentencing court to determine whether a statute is “divisible” or “indivisible” based on whether it requires proof of alternative elements, the Court concluded that South Carolina’s burglary statute was indivisible, because it merely requires proof of entry in a “dwelling,” and the type of dwelling is not an element of the offense. Under South Carolina law, the type of dwelling includes locales, for example, a “vehicle,” that are not “generic” burglary, that is, do not involve entry into a “building or structure.” In a footnote, the Court noted its precedent that had held, on plain error review, that the South Carolina statute was “divisible.” But Lockett preserved the issue, so review was de novo, not for “plain error” – and on de novo review, Lockett prevailed.