Published on: Monday, November 20, 2023

The Supreme Court on Monday morning granted cert in Erlinger v. United States, where the justices will return to a familiar statute: the Armed Career Criminal Act, which imposes an enhanced sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm if the defendant has three convictions “committed on occasions different from one another.” At issue in the case is whether a jury, rather than a judge, must decide whether the crimes occurred on different occasions.

The issue for the justices deals with the interplay of two Supreme Court rulings.

In 2013, the court held in Alleyne v. United States that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury requires that any fact that increases a mandatory minimum sentence must be made by a jury, not a judge.

And in 2022, the court in Wooden v. United States took a fact-specific approach to the question of whether a conviction resulted from different occasions, as opposed to a single criminal event that resulted in more than one conviction.

Paul Erlinger was sentenced to the mandatory 15-year sentence based on four burglary convictions from 1991 that were charged in a single complaint, but took place over the course of a week.

Erlinger argues that after Wooden, the jury must consider whether the burglary convictions were committed on different occasions, or the same one. And the Biden administration agreed. Nevertheless, lower courts have resisted that outcome.

The case is Erlinger v. United States, No. 23-370.