LEGAL THEORY Chapter 4 CASE BRIEF
553 U.S. 137, 128 S.Ct. 1581
Facts: In September 2004, New Mexico police officers received a report that Larry Begay, the petitioner here, had threatened his sister and aunt with a rifle. The police arrested him. Begay subsequently conceded he was a felon and pleaded guilty to a federal charge of unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of § 922(g)(1). Begay's presentence report said that he had been convicted a dozen times for DUI, which under New Mexico's law, becomes a felony (punishable by a prison term of more than one year) the fourth (or subsequent) time an individual commits it. (Supp.2007). The sentencing judge consequently found that Begay had at least three prior convictions for a crime “punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” 377 F.Supp.2d 1141, 1143 (NM 2005). The judge also concluded that Begay's “three felony DUI convictions involve conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” Id., at 1145. The judge consequently concluded that Begay had three or more prior convictions for a “violent felony” and should receive a sentence that reflected a mandatory minimum prison term of 15 years. Ibid.
Procedural History: After petitioner Begay pleaded guilty to felony 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 concluded 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 felony” under the Act. appealed. The Court of Appeals panel by a vote of 2 to 1 rejected that claim. 470 F.3d 964 (C.A.10 2006). Begay sought...
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