Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lee: "Walkaway" offense not "violent felony" under ACCA

In U.S. v. Lee, No. 08-14724 (Oct. 26, 2009), the Court, citing Chambers v. U.S., 129 S.Ct. 687 (U.S. 2009), held that a prior "walkaway" escape conviction is not a "violent felony" and therefore vacated the defendant’s 15-year mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The Court affirmed the felon in possession conviction.
The Court rejected Lee’s Fourth Amendment challenge to the seizure of a gun from the glove compartment of a car in which he was a passenger. The Court found that, as a passenger, Lee lacked standing to challenge the search of the vehicle.
The Court also rejected Lee’s argument that the judge should not have used his own ruler and car keys to demonstrate for the jury the concepts of actual and constructive possession.
Turning to sentencing, the Court applied the approach of the Supreme Court in Begay and Chambers, and concluded that Lee’s prior conviction, which was based on his leaving a halfway house without permission, was not a crime of violence. The Court cited similar decisions in other Circuits which reached the same conclusion in light of Begay and Chambers. The Court noted that Lee’s walkaway offense did not involve "aggression," and was not the type of conduct "that one hears about and remarks, ‘that’s the kind of thing an armed career criminal would do.’"