- Free Essays, Term Papers & Book Notes

Begay Vs. United States Court Case Research Paper

Page 1 of 15

Begay v. United States

On January 24, 2005, Larry Begay, a convicted felon, pled guilty in the New Mexico District Court to illegally possessing a firearm. Having been convicted in over three felony accounts of driving while intoxicated, Begay was a felon by New Mexico state law. Per the district court, the three felonies committed by Begay were violent felonies in accordance with United States’ Code. This made Begay eligible to be sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Under this conviction, Begay would be held to a sentence with minimum of fifteen years.

With this sentence, the conviction presented questions about the clarity of the clauses within the Armed Career Criminal Act which classified violent crimes. On January 15, 2008, Begay’s lawyers presented the question of whether driving while intoxicated qualifies as a violent felony under the clauses of the Armed Career Criminal Law to the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the Supreme Court overturned Begay’s sentence concluding that driving while intoxicated did not resemble the intentionally harm inducing crimes listed as examples in the Armed Career Criminal Act. I disagree with the majority opinion of the Supreme Court because driving while intoxicated is inarguably purposeful, and while harm may not be predisposed, it causes a high risk of injury to others.

Originally passed in 1984, the Armed Career Criminal Act was instituted as a part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act to reform criminal law and curb the rising rates of violent crime (Holder 7). Because statistics indicated that specific and limited groups of criminals were committing the most crimes, the Armed Career Criminal Act was formed to involve Federal law enforcement in creating harsher punishments for career criminals in possession of a firearm (Holder 7). Although the 1984 version of the Armed Career Criminal Act only explicitly defined robbery and burglary in the written law, the amendments made to the statute in 1986 were expanded to include serious drug offenses, burglary, arson, and extortion, or other similar crimes that threaten, attempt, or use force against others (Holder 8).

In September 2004, New Mexico police received a call reporting a domestic dispute. Once on the scene, they found Larry Begay, a middle-aged Navajo man, aiming an unloaded .22 caliber gun at his aunt and sister (Sandlin). Witness accounts say that he was pulling the trigger on his gun and threatening to kill the two women if they did not give him the money he demanded. Before he began wielding his firearm at his family members, Begay had been out drinking and had passed his limit of alcohol. Prior to this incident, Begay had been arrested twenty-two times for driving under the influence and had been convicted twelve of those times (Sandlin). Per New Mexico state law, Begay then had three felony convictions of driving under the influence. Because of his status as a three-time felon, Begay was then arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Begay’s initial court hearing took place in the New Mexico District Court with United States’ District Judge William Johnson presiding. Begay pled guilty on the count of illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon; however, because of his history of drunken driving convictions, Judge Johnson ruled that Begay was to be considered a violent felon under the Armed Career Criminal Act. He made this conviction under the pretense that the Armed Career Criminal Act states that violent felonies can be defined as “those that have an element of threat, attempt, or use of physical force against another” (Doyle 2). Those who are sentenced as violent felons have a minimum sentence of fifteen years in prison. Instead of being sentenced to three years and five months in prison for illegal possession of a firearm as a felon, Begay was sentenced to spend fifteen years and eight months in prison having been sentenced as a violent felon.

Feeling that this conviction was unfair based upon the clauses within the Armed Career Criminal Act, Begay brought his case before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (Begay v. United States). Begay’s legal team argued that the intent of the Armed Career Criminal Act is to provide a more severe punishment for career criminals whose convictions indicate a potential for them to be more harmful with in possession of a firearm. They also argued that the second clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act which lists “burglary, arson, extortion, and crimes involving the use of explosives” as examples of its covered crimes should only cover other crimes that are like it in both risk as well as kind and intention (Begay v. United States 2). With this opinion, they asserted that driving under the influence should not be covered under the Armed Career Criminal Act as it is unlike the example crimes in both kind and intention.

Download as (for upgraded members)
Citation Generator

(2017, 11). Begay Vs. United States Court Case Research Paper. Retrieved 11, 2017, from

"Begay Vs. United States Court Case Research Paper" 11 2017. 2017. 11 2017 <>.

"Begay Vs. United States Court Case Research Paper.", 11 2017. Web. 11 2017. <>.

"Begay Vs. United States Court Case Research Paper." 11, 2017. Accessed 11, 2017.