Descamps v. United States

Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court clarified standards for evaluating potential prior offenses under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA).[1] In an 8–1 decision written by Justice Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court held that judges may only look at the statutory elements of a crime, rather than the facts associated with that particular crime, "when the crime of which the defendant was convicted has a single, indivisible set of elements."[2] In his review of the case for SCOTUSblog, Daniel Richman opined that following the Court's decision, "[w]hether or not a prior conviction is going to 'count' will have to be determined as mechanically as possible."[3]

Descamps v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued January 7, 2013
Decided June 20, 2013
Full case nameMatthew Robert Descamps, Petitioner v. United States
Docket no.11-9540
Citations570 U.S. 254 (more)
133 S. Ct. 2276; 186 L. Ed. 2d 438; 2013 U.S. LEXIS 4698, 81 U.S.L.W. 4490
Opinion announcementOpinion announcement
Under the Armed Career Criminal Act, judges may not look at facts associated with a crime (the "modified categorical approach") when criminal statutes contain a single, indivisible set of elements
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor · Elena Kagan
Case opinions
MajorityKagan, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor
ConcurrenceThomas (in judgment only)
Laws applied
Armed Career Criminal Act

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013).
  2. ^ Descamps, slip op. at 2.
  3. ^ Daniel Richman, Opinion analysis: When is a burglary not a burglary?, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 20, 2013).

External linksEdit