Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Petite: Any Intentional Vehicle Flight is a "Violent Felony"

In U.S. v. Petite, No. 11-14996 (Jan. 3, 2013), the Court, relying on Sykes v. U.S., 131 S.Ct. 2267 (2011) and overruling U.S. v. Harrison, 558 F.3d 1280 (11th Cir. 2009), held that a prior conviction for intentional vehicular flight from an authorized law enforcement patrol car, in violation of Fla. Stat. § 316.1935(2), qualifies as a “violent felony” for purposes of the higher mandatory minimum punishment for convicted felons under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”).
The Court noted that Sykes involved a “strikingly similar” Indiana vehicular flight statute, in which the Supreme Court held that because of the inherent risk in vehicular flight, the offense qualified as a “violent felony.” The Court noted that Sykes had “sharply curtailed” the reach of cases like Begay, by determining that the requirement of “purposeful, violent and aggressive” conduct “no longer applies to intentional crimes like vehicle flight.
The Court rejected the argument that Sykes could be distinguished because, unlike Florida, Indiana did not have a “gradient of penalties for different levels of vehicle flight.” Although Sykes left “for another day” the issue of how escalating tiers of punishment might affect the analysis, the Court found “little meaningful distinction” in the existence of a gradient of offenses. The Court found that any intentional flight “provokes a dangerous confrontational response” from police, which creates the “serious risk” of injury that qualifies an offense as a “violent felony” under ACCA.