Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, February 20, 2009

Harrision: Fleeing Police Lights & Siren not "Violent Felony"

In U.S. v. Harrison, No. 08-12636 (Feb. 19, 2009), the Court (Hull, Wilson, Hill, JJ.) held that a violation of subsection 2 of Florida’s willful fleeing statute, Fla. Stat. § 316.1935(2) is not a "violent felony" for purposes of the 15-year mandatory minimum of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), applicable to offenders who are convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) of being felons in unlawful possession of a firearm and who have three prior convictions for violent felonies.
The Court discussed at length how the Supreme Court’s decisions in Begay, James and Chambers had changed the legal landscape. The Court noted that Chambers has already spawned a reconsideration of circuit precedent involving escape crimes.
The Court emphasized that subsection 2 of the Florida statute – unlike subsection 3 – did not contemplate that the offender had any wanton disregard for the safety of persons. Rather, it only involved fleeing after a police vehicle had activated its lights and sirens. This kind of offender did not have the propensity for future violent conduct that the statute contemplated when it triggered a 15-year minimum for those who have three prior "violent felonies."