On February 26, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Shular v. United States, No. 18-6662 (Feb. 26, 2020). Justice Ginsburg, writing for a unanimous Court, held that the Armed Career Criminal Act’s (ACCA’s) “serious drug offense” definition, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii), "requires only that the state offense involve the conduct specified in the statute; it does not require that the state offense match certain generic offenses."
Mr. Shular had pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and received a 15-year sentence—the mandatory minimum sentence for a defendant convicted of being a felon in possession who has at least three prior convictions for “serious drug offense[s]” wihtin the meaning of ACCA. As the Court noted, a state offense ranks as a "serious drug offense" under § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii) "only if it 'involv[es] manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance.'” §924(e)(2)(A)(ii). This case concerns the methodology courts use to apply that definition.” The District Court held that Mr. Shular’s six prior cocaine-related convictions under Florida law qualified as “serious drug offense[s]” triggering ACCA enhancement. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that §924(e)(2)(A)(ii)’s “serious drug offense” definition does not require a comparison to a generic offense.
Mr. Shular contended that the terms employed in ACCA’s definition of serious drug offense “identify not conduct, but offenses.” According to Mr. Shular, a court must first identify the elements of the “generic” drug offense, “then ask whether the elements of the state offense match those of the generic crime.” The Supreme Court rejected this approach, concluding that ACCA’s “‘serious drug offense’ definition [does not] call for a comparison to a generic offense.” As noted, the Court held “‘serious drug offense” definition requires only that the state offense involve the conduct specified in the federal statute; it does not require that the state offense match certain generic offenses.”
The Training Division provides program materials, videos, and criminal defense topic materials related to ACCA predicates on www.fd.org. The Division plans to develop and provide resource materials related to Shular in the near future.