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.)


New Life Lodge Agrees To Resolve TennCare Fraud Allegations For $9.25 Million

CRC Health Group has agreed to pay $9.25 million to settle allegations of TennCare fraud related to its New Life Lodge Facility in Burns, Tennessee, Attorney General Bob Cooper announced today. The State alleged that between 2006 and 2012 CRC provided substandard services, repeatedly exceeded its state-licensed patient capacity, and caused third party pharmacies to bill the TennCare ... (click for more)

Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan Welcome Attorneys Hoey And Dalton

Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan, PLLC welcomed two attorneys in April. Attorney Charles G. Hoey joins the Atlanta office as Of Counsel, and Attorney Dana S. Dalton joins the Knoxville office as Of Counsel. Mr. Hoey has been litigating and mediating insurance defense claims since becoming a lawyer in 1989. His practice focuses on Insurance Coverage and Defense, Workers’ ... (click for more)

Haslam Signs Bill Ending Forced Annexation And Giving Tennesseans Right To Vote

Governor Bill Haslam signed HB 2371/SB2464 on Wednesday. The law ends forced annexations and gives Tennesseans the right to vote. The law now requires cities to annex by consent of the landowner or through referendum approved by a majority of the landowners to be annexed. As an additional protection to farmers, land primarily used for agriculture purposes may not be annexed by any ... (click for more)

One Of "Worst Of The Worst" Gets 10-Month Federal Sentence

One of the men labeled as the "worst of the worst" in a Chattanooga round up was sentenced Tuesday to 10 months and three years supervised release after he plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Guy Wilkerson told Federal Judge Sandy Mattice, "I'm just a young father and I want the best for my kids." He said he apologized and that he knew what he ... (click for more)

What's Wrong With The City Recycle Program? - And Response (2)

Being new to recycling, I have lots to learn.  I rely on 311 and the attendants at the neighborhood collection centers to assist in building my knowledge.   Recently, I had an experience that makes me reconsidered my recycling efforts.  I loaded up my car, called 311 to verify what I could take, only to be blocked by the attendant at my neighborhood collection ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: That Billboard & Much More

Now that early voting has started and our strawberries have hopefully survived this last blush of winter, allow me to catch up on some things but, first, here’s a letter from a concerned reader I feel compelled to share: “There is something I have noticed throughout Brainerd, East Brainerd, Dayton, etc. A billboard has been put up, I believe by the Health Department of Hamilton ... (click for more)