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SCOTUS Says: Burglary Includes Livable Vehicles

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 11, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A recent unanimous High Court decision is making headlines thanks to it clearing up some semantic confusion. According to SCOTUS, the crime of burglary not only includes homes, businesses, and livable structures, but also vehicles that can be adapted to be, or are designed to be, lived in.

The case made it to the Supreme Court because of purported ambiguity when it came to sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which imposes mandatory sentencing guidelines for federal convicts with prior violent crime convictions, including burglary. The confusion is alleged to stem from the word burglary; specifically, whether under the ACCA, the term burglary included vehicles that could be adapted or are used as dwellings.

What's a Livable Vehicle?

Interestingly, the Court does not seem to make any specific reference to what is or isn't considered a vehicle capable of being burgled. Though, based on their description, it sounds like clearly RVs would be included, as would those pickup truck camper add-ons, and probably even certain conversion vans (or maybe any van down by the river). However, the Court stopped short of proclaiming that any car that is lived in would qualify, but not on the merits, rather simply because that question was not properly before it on review.

Risk of Violence

Notably, the High Court explained that the purpose behind the state statutes that include livable, or lived in, vehicles in burglary statutes seek to protect against the same thing: the risk of violence inherent in entering another's dwelling with the intent to commit a crime. Burglary is included alongside violent crimes in the ACCA because it seems to require a willingness to commit a violent crime if discovered.

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