James v. United States
The United States convicted James of possession of a firearm after having been convicted of felony, and attempted to increase his sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The United States can increase sentences under the ACCA if a convicted criminal has three previous convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses. The definition for a violent felony in 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B) includes burglery and “conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” James had two prior drug trafficking convictions and another for attempted burglary.
The district court held that attempted burglary is a violent felony, but declined to increase his sentence under the ACCA because it also held that one of his drug offenses was not serious, so he only had two of the three required offenses. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that an attempt to commit one of the specifically listed crimes in 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B) creates enough risk of injury to consider the crime a violent felony. The court reversed the decision that the drug trafficking charge was not serious, vacated the sentence, and remanded the case with instructions to increase the sentence under the ACCA.
Whether the Eleventh Circuit erred by holding that all convictions in Florida for attempted burglary qualify as a violent felony under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), creating a circuit conflict on the issue.