Lee Davis: 6th Circuit Court Of Appeals: Is Evading Arrest A Violent Felony?

Saturday, May 19, 2012 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis
This case concerns whether a defendant’s prior conviction for evading arrest is a “violent felony” for purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). If it is the consequences for a subsequent federal conviction are large. Despite having previously ruled that evading arrest is a violent felony and then having the Supreme Court vacate the Sixth Circuit’s judgment, the Court ruled again that under Tennessee law it is a violent felony.

In this case, defendant David Earl Doyle was found by police in 2007 parked behind a church sleeping in a running vehicle. Deputies saw a pistol in the driver’s side door and a shotgun lying between the driver and his sleeping female companion.
The officers removed the weapons before arresting the two on various charges. A few weeks later a federal grand jury indicted Doyle and charged him as a felon in possession of a firearm, alterations to the barrel of a firearm (sawing off a shotgun), and possession of an unregistered firearm. Doyle pled guilty.

At sentencing the district court ruled Doyle was an armed career criminal (ACCA) under the guidelines because of his three prior convictions that qualified him for an enhanced sentence: aggravated assault, burglary and a Class E felony of evading arrest. The district court sentenced Doyle to 180 months on count one and 120 months for counts two and three, to run concurrently. 

Doyle agrees that his previous convictions for aggravated assault and burglary qualify as violent felonies under the ACCA. The issue is whether evading arrest qualifies as a violent felony. 

Under the ACCA a violent felony is “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” that has as an element the use of physical force against another  “or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” Class E felony evading arrest can only be considered a violent felony under this catchall provision. 

The Sixth Circuit previously address just such a question in U.S. v. Rogers, holding that in Tennessee a Class E felony evading arrest is a “crime of violence” under the guidelines.  While Doyle claims Rogers was wrongly decided he does not attempt to distinguish a case that is otherwise identical to the fact pattern present here. Though Rogers was remanded by the Supreme Court no new opinion has been issued on the case and therefore the Supreme Court’s ruling has an undetermined impact.
The Court’s majority founds that the portion of the ACCA discussing “serious potential risk of physical injury to another” applies in this case. The Court says such potential risks to officers are always present in vehicular-flight cases. Such risk is inherent in such situations as flight is in defiance of police instructions and the vehicles can be used in a way to cause serious potential risks of injury to others. 

Despite what the Supreme Court wrote in Rogers, the Sixth Circuit has decided that nothing should cause a reconsideration of their holding in Rogers and that Class E felony evading arrest under Tennessee law is a violent felony under the ACCA.

To read the full opinion, click here.
See Our Related Blog Posts:

6th Circuit Appeals Court Upholds Child Pornographer’s Life Sentence

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


Alexander Says Supreme Court Right To Block Obama Clean Power Plan

Senator Lamar Alexander agreed U.S. Supreme Court was right to block the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan until legal challenges to the law are resolved. “The Supreme Court was right to stop implementation of the Obama administration’s arbitrary energy plan that favors unreliable wind power over more reliable clean sources of energy like nuclear power. The best path ... (click for more)

Speed Networking Membership Luncheon Is Feb. 23

Walker County Chamber of Commerce will host a speed networking luncheon Feb. 23 with special guest and emcee Kim Carson from Sunny 92.3 FM.  It will be held at the Walker County Civic Center from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Attendees have the opportunity to network face-to-face with each guest, exchanging business cards and information about their respective businesses to gain contacts ... (click for more)

WWTA, Grimes, Clem Lambasted At Boyd Public Forum

Over 50 people turned out Tuesday night on a meeting called by County Commissioner Tim Boyd over issues with the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA), and many took turns lambasting the agency, director Cleveland Grimes and attorney Chris Clem. Commissioner Boyd said at the end of the hour and a half session at the East Ridge Community Center, "If less ... (click for more)

City Facing Millions In Catchup Costs For Fire And Police Pension Fund

City Council members were told Tuesday they are facing millions of dollars in catchup costs for the fire and police pension fund. Pension fund officials said the city will need to invest some $1.6 million per year more with the fund to keep up with the latest state requirement. Frank Hamilton said the fund has been at a level of about 60 percent of obligations, but that needs ... (click for more)

Rick Smith Should Not Be Paid To Leave

Taxpayers of Hamilton County should take note that a majority of the members of the school board are getting ready to give Rick Smith the buyout that he wants.  Do you agree that someone should be paid for taking the coward's way out?  Rick Smith should be fired for cause. Not paid to leave.   If you don't want the board members to pay him off, call or ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Grab The Reaching Hand

Three of Tennessee’s largest four cities are now searching for school superintendents. Jesse Register retired last June and, after botching the first attempt, Nashville city leaders are intensely helping the Board of Education in a search for the best candidate. In Knoxville and Chattanooga the superintendents have resigned, both under a cloud, and now the leaders of the ‘2.0’ initiative ... (click for more)