Published on: Monday, November 20, 2023

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Erlinger v. United States, No. 23-370, to decide “whether the Constitution requires a jury trial and proof beyond a reasonable doubt to find that a defendant’s prior convictions were ‘committed on occasions different from one another,’ as is necessary to impose an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1)."

ACCA mandates a fifteen-year minimum sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm if the defendant has three prior qualifying convictions for offenses “committed on occasions different from one another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). In Wooden v. United States, 595 U.S. 360 (2022), the Court held that the ACCA’s “on occasions different from one another” clause can be triggered only after a fact-intensive inquiry into whether the prior crimes arose from the “single criminal episode,” which requires a “multi-factored” examination of the time, place, “character and relationship of the offenses,” as well as any intervening events. In Apprendi v. New Jersey, 570 U.S. 99 (2000), the Court held The Fifth and Sixth Amendments require that “any fact that increases the mandatory minimum is an ‘element’ that must be submitted to the jury” and “found beyond a reasonable doubt,” subject only to a “narrow exception . . . for the fact of a prior conviction.”  Petitioner Erlinger argues, because Wooden identified factors that fall outside the narrow “fact of a prior conviction” exception to Apprendi, the existence of three qualifying offenses committed on different occasions must be alleged in the indictment and proved to a jury.

The cert stage documents are available on the Supreme Court's websire here