Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Begay: DUI is not a "violent felony"

In Begay v. U.S., No. 06-11543, the Supreme Court held that a felony conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) falls outside the scope of the "violent felony" definition, for purposes of imposing a mandatory 15-year prison term upon a felon who unlawfully possesses a firearm and who has three or more prior "violent felony" convictions.
The Court concluded that DUI is too unlike the four examples Congress listed in the "violent felony" definition, namely "burglary, arson, or extortion, or [an offense that] involves use of explosives," to indicate that Congress intended that provision to cover DUI. "[T]he statute covers only similar crimes, rather than every crime that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." (Emphasis in original).
The Court found that DUI differs from the four example crimes, in that it does not involve the violence and aggressive conduct typical of them. The Court noted that a contrary definition would take in crimes "far removed . . . from the deliberate kind of behavior associated with the violent criminal use of firearms."