Home Invasion Is Violent, Supreme Court Affirms

(CN) – The first time he committed a felony against an ex-girlfriend, Jamar Alonzo Quarles chased a woman down into a nearby apartment where she had taken refuge in 2002.

Two years later, Quarles put a gun to the head of a second ex-girlfriend and threatened to kill her.

In 2008, that same ex-girlfriend was fighting with another man, and Quarles shot at him.

Under the Armed Career Criminals Act, this third violent felony would trigger heavy sentencing enhancements if Quarles struck again, and five years later, he did.

A new woman Quarles was dating called the police in 2013 to report that he had hit her and threatened her at gunpoint.

Quarles received a 17-year sentence after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, but argued on appeal that this term improperly categorized his initial home invasion as a burglary.

The Supreme Court unanimously rejected that premise Monday, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh emphasizing the flaw in Quarles’ argument.

“That result not only would defy common sense, but also would defeat Congress’ stated objective of imposing enhanced punishment on armed career criminals who have three prior convictions for burglary or other violent felonies,” Kavanaugh wrote.

“We should not lightly conclude that Congress enacted a self-defeating statute,” he added.

Justice Clarence Thomas concurred, skewering the “absurdity” of the careful legal parsing in what he called a “categorical approach” to the enumerated-offenses clause under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

“But this ideal is starkly different from the reality of petitioner’s actual crime: Petitioner attempted to climb through an apartment window to attack his ex-girlfriend,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas asserted that the courts need a new approach to making these determinations.

“Because the categorical approach employed today is difficult to apply and can yield dramatically different sentences depending on where a burglary occurred, the court should consider whether its approach is actually required in the first place for ACCA’s enumerated-offenses clause,” he wrote.

Passed in 1984, the Armed Career Criminal Act prescribes a 15-year minimum sentence and an implied maximum of life imprisonment for felons with three or more convictions for “violent felonies” or “serious drug offenses.”

Quarles is represented by Jeremy Marwell with Vinson & Elkins. The attorney has not returned a request for comment.

This story is developing…

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