FAQs About Descamps v. United States

By Craig M. Coscarelli


The Descamps decision gives guidance on the correct application of the Modified Categorical Approach (“MCA”) to determine whether a state prior conviction for burglary really was a burglary under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”).  The Court explained that the MCA could only be applied to a statute if that statute was divisible, or contained alternative language outside the generic definition of the crime.  If the statute is not divisible, then it stands as is, but if the definition is not the same as or narrower than the “Generic” definition of the crime, the prior conviction does not count under the ACCA.


Precedent ACCA cases, such as Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990) and Shepard v. United States, 544 U.S. 13 (2005), as well as other ACCA cases over the past quarter-century, show there is obviously a problem with the ACCA.  Descamps is yet another effort by the Court to give guidance to the lower courts.

In Taylor, the Court established the methodology to determine whether a prior state conviction for burglary actually was burglary under the ACCA.  The Court first defined burglary as: “an unlawful or unprivileged entry or remaining in a structure or building with the intent to commit a crime.” Id.  The Court then instituted the “Categorical Approach,” which is to simply look at the language of the state statute of conviction to see if the defendant was convicted of generic burglary.  But, since most state statutes for burglary have language in addition to the generic definition to cover a broader range of crimes, the Court authorized a modified version of the Categorical Approach and called it the “MCA.” Id.  Under this MCA, the sentencing court could look at the conduct for which the defendant was convicted if the state statute contained alternative language outside the definition of generic burglary.  And herein lays the problem. Id.

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International Men's Day – 2013


Diane A. Sears – Coordinator              

2013 International Men’s Day

E-Mail:[email protected]



BRIGHTON, UNITED KINGDOM – 14 February 2013 — People all over the world are used to relating to men as protectors and providers, but how often do we consider the actions we can all take to protect Men and Boys from harm and provide them with a safe world where they can thrive and prosper?

In the run up to 2013 International Men’s Day — Tuesday 19th November — ,we’re asking supporters of the day to focus on five key challenges that will help create a better world for everyone by Keeping Men and Boys Safe.:

 Keeping Men And Boys Safe By Tackling Male Suicide   

Every minute of every hour of every day, one more man reaches the point where he thinks the only option is to take his own life.

According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that nearly one million people take their lives every year and most of them are Men. In developed countries, Men are generally three to four times more likely to take their own lives.

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