Attempting to Elude LEOs in a Vehicle is a Violent Crime-New Case Law from The United States Supreme Court!!
On Thursday , June 9, 2011, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion of Sykes v. United States. The case settles a legal question that split federal circuits: Is the attempt to flee or elude the LEOs in a vehicle a violent crime? The short answer is “Yes.” You can read the entire opinion here.
The USSC examined this question in connection with a mandatory sentencing case. Put simply, Sykes claimed that fleeing from LEOs in a vehicle in Indiana was a felony, but not a violent felony. Sykes was fighting a mandatory sentencing under the federal Armed Career Criminal Act. The USSC examined the Indiana law at issue from one of Sykes’ prior convictions as well as the crime of fleeing or attempting to elude LEOs in a vehicle. In a great opinion, Justice Kennedy outlines why this crime constitutes a violent felony. I recommend that you take the time to read the opinion.
Like all appellate opinions, the USSC uses prior case law and public policy to explain the reason behind the opinion. The Sykes opinion explains the “evil” behind the crime of using a vehicle to flee or attempting to elude LEOs. “The attempt to elude capture is a direct challenge to an officer’s authority. It is a provocative and dangerous act that dares, and in a typical case requires, the officer to give chase. The felon’s conduct gives the officer reason to believe that the defendant has something more serious than a traffic violation to hide.”
Justice Kennedy goes on to cite to Scott v. Harris, a 2007 opinion that held that LEOs were not required to abandon efforts to chase a suspect in the hope that the suspect would stop fleeing and stated, “Confrontation with police is the expected result of vehicle flight. It places property and persons at serious risk of injury.”
I am certain that most if not all LEOs will cheer this opinion. Suspects who flee and attempt to elude LEOs in a vehicle place both the public and the LEOs in the chase at risk. Like many other opinions from the USSC, this case should confirm for you that the USSC will read your reports, watch your videos, pay attention to your trial testimony and maintain a practical approach to law enforcement in the United States. Keep this in mind when you start your next shift.