Sykes v. United States, No. 09–11311.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation564 U.S. 1,131 S.Ct. 2267,180 L.Ed.2d 60
Parties Marcus SYKES, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES.
Decision Date09 June 2011
Docket NumberNo. 09–11311.

564 U.S. 1
131 S.Ct.
2267
180 L.Ed.2d 60

Marcus SYKES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES.

No. 09–11311.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued Jan. 12, 2011.
Decided June 9, 2011.


William E. Marsh, Indianapolis, IN, for Petitioner.

Jeffrey B. Wall, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

William E. Marsh, James C. McKinley, Indianapolis, Indiana, for Petitioner.

Neal Kumar Katyal, Acting Solicitor General, Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General, Roy W. McLeese III, Acting Deputy Solicitor General, Jeffrey B. Wall, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Richard A. Friedman, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

Justice KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.

564 U.S. 3

It is a federal crime for a convicted felon to be in unlawful possession of a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The ordinary maximum sentence for that crime is 10 years of imprisonment. § 924(a)(2). If, however, when the unlawful possession occurred, the felon had three previous convictions for a violent felony or serious drug offense, the punishment is increased to a minimum term of 15 years. § 924(e). The

564 U.S. 4

instant case is another in a series in which the Court is called upon to interpret § 924(e) to determine if a particular previous conviction was for a "violent felony," as that term is used in the punishment enhancement statute. See James v. United States, 550 U.S. 192, 127 S.Ct. 1586, 167 L.Ed.2d 532 (2007) ; Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137, 128 S.Ct. 1581, 170 L.Ed.2d 490 (2008) ; Chambers v. United States, 555 U.S. 122, 129 S.Ct. 687, 172 L.Ed.2d 484 (2009).

In this case the previous conviction in question is under an Indiana statute that makes it a criminal offense whenever the driver of a vehicle knowingly or intentionally "flees from a law enforcement officer." Ind.Code § 35–44–3–3 (2004). The relevant text of the statute is set out in the discussion below. For the reasons explained, the vehicle flight that the statute proscribes is a violent felony as the federal statute uses that term.

I

Petitioner Marcus Sykes pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), in connection with an attempted robbery of two people at

131 S.Ct. 2271

gunpoint. Sykes had previous convictions for at least three felonies. On two separate occasions Sykes used a firearm to commit robbery, in one case to rob a man of his $200 wristwatch and in another to rob a woman of her purse.

His third prior felony is the one of concern here. Sykes was convicted for vehicle flight, in violation of Indiana's "resisting law enforcement" law. Ind.Code § 35–44–3–3. That law provides:

"(a) A person who knowingly or intentionally:

"(1) forcibly resists, obstructs, or interferes with a law enforcement officer or a person assisting the officer while the officer is lawfully engaged in the execution of his duties as an officer;

"(2) forcibly resists, obstructs, or interferes with the authorized service or execution of a civil or criminal process or order of a court; or
564 U.S. 5
"(3) flees from a law enforcement officer after the officer has, by visible or audible means, identified himself and ordered the person to stop;

"commits resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor, except as provided in subsection (b).

"(b) The offense under subsection (a) is a:

"(1) Class D felony if:

"(A) the offense is described in subsection (a)(3) and the person uses a vehicle to commit the offense; or

"(B) while committing any offense described in subsection (a), the person draws or uses a deadly weapon, inflicts bodily injury on another person, or operates a vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person;

(2) Class C felony if, while committing any offense described in subsection (a), the person operates a vehicle in a manner that causes serious bodily injury to another person; and

(3) Class B felony if, while committing any offense described in subsection (a), the person operates a vehicle in a manner that causes the death of another person."

Here, as will be further explained, Sykes used a vehicle to flee after an officer ordered him to stop, which was, as the statute provides, a class D felony. The Court of Appeals of Indiana has interpreted the crime of vehicle flight to require "a knowing attempt to escape law enforcement." Woodward v. State, 770 N.E.2d 897, 901 (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Woodward involved a driver who repeatedly flashed his bright lights and failed to obey traffic signals. Id., at 898. When an officer activated his emergency equipment, the defendant became "aware ... that [the officer] wanted him to pull his vehicle over," but instead drove for a mile without "stopping, slowing, or otherwise acknowledging" the officer because, he later testified, he "was ‘trying to rationalize why [he] would be pulled over.’ " Id., at 898, 901.

564 U.S. 6

Though the defendant later claimed that he was also seeking a "well-lighted place to stop where there would be someone who knew him," id., at 901, his actions suggested otherwise. He passed two gas stations, a food outlet store, and a McDonald's before pulling over. When he got out of the car, he began to shout profanities at the pursuing officer. Ibid. By that time, the officer had called for backup and exited his own vehicle with his gun drawn. Id., at 898. In answering the defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the above evidence, the Indiana court held that because he knew that a police officer sought to stop him, the defendant could not "choose the location of the stop" and insist on completing the stop "on his own terms," as he had

131 S.Ct. 2272

done, "without adequate justification," which he lacked. Id., at 901–902.

In the instant case a report prepared for Sykes' federal sentencing describes the details of the Indiana crime. After observing Sykes driving without using needed headlights, police activated their emergency equipment for a traffic stop. Sykes did not stop. A chase ensued. Sykes wove through traffic, drove on the wrong side of the road and through yards containing bystanders, passed through a fence, and struck the rear of a house. Then he fled on foot. He was found only with the aid of a police dog.

The District Court decided that his three prior convictions, including the one for violating the prohibition on vehicle flight in subsection (b)(1)(A) of the Indiana statute just discussed, were violent felonies for purposes of § 924(e) and sentenced Sykes to 188 months of imprisonment. On appeal Sykes conceded that his two prior robbery convictions were violent felonies. He did not dispute that his vehicle flight offense was a felony, but he did argue that it was not violent. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. 598 F.3d 334 (2010). The court's opinion was consistent with the rulings of the Courts of Appeals in the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Tenth Circuits. Powell v. United States, 430 F.3d 490 (C.A.1 2005)(per curiam); United States v. Harrimon,

564 U.S. 7

568 F.3d 531, 534–537 (C.A.5 2009) ; United States v. LaCasse, 567 F.3d 763, 765–767 (C.A.6 2009) ; United States v. McConnell, 605 F.3d 822, 827–830 (C.A.10 2010) (finding the flight to be a " crime of violence" under the "nearly identical" § 4B1.2(a)(2) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines ). It was in conflict with a ruling by a Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in United States v. Harrison, 558 F.3d 1280, 1291–1296 (2009), and at least in tension, if not in conflict, with the reasoning of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in United States v. Tyler, 580 F.3d 722, 724–726 (2009), and for the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Kelly, 422 F.3d 889, 892–897 (2005), United States v. Jennings, 515 F.3d 980, 992–993 (2008), and United States v. Peterson, No. 07–30465, 2009 WL 3437834, *1 (Oct. 27, 2009). The writ of certiorari, 561 U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 63, 177 L.Ed.2d 1152 (2010), allows this Court to address the conflict.

II

In determining whether an offense is a violent felony, this Court has explained,

"we employ the categorical approach .... Under this approach, we look only to the fact of conviction and the statutory definition of the prior offense, and do not generally consider the particular facts disclosed by the record of conviction. That is, we consider whether the elements of the offense are of the type that would justify its inclusion within the residual provision, without inquiring into the specific conduct of this particular offender." James, 550 U.S., at 202 [127 S.Ct. 1586] (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 599–602, 110 S.Ct. 2143, 109 L.Ed.2d 607 (1990).

So while there may be little doubt that the circumstances of the flight in Sykes' own case were violent, the question is whether § 35–44–3–3 of the Indiana Code, as a categorical matter, is a violent felony.

564 U.S. 8

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  • United States v. Taylor, Criminal No. 03–10 (CKK)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • August 9, 2017
    ...of the ACCA's residual clause before ultimately finding it void for vagueness in Johnson (2015). See generally Sykes v. United States , 564 U.S. 1, 131 (S.Ct. 2267, 180 L.Ed.2d 60 2011) ; James v. United States , 550 U.S. 192, 127 S.Ct. 1586, 167 L.Ed.2d 532 (2007). Moreover, the Supreme Co......
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    ...the officer reason to believe that the [suspect] has something more serious than a traffic violation to hide." Sykes v. United States, 564 U.S. 1, 9, 131 S. Ct. 2267, 2273, 180 L. Ed.2d 60 (2011), overruled on other grounds, Johnson v. United States, ___U.S.___, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 192 L. Ed.2......
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
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    ...our judgment and remanded the case for further consideration in light of its recent decision, Sykes v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 2267, 180 L.Ed.2d 60 (2011). See Rogers v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 3018, 180 L.Ed.2d 842 (2011) (mem.). For the reasons that follow,......
  • Dean v. United States, C18-4044-LTS
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    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 28, 2021
    ...to define the contours of which prior convictions were “violent felonies” under the residual clause. See Sykes v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2267 (2011); Chambers v. United States, 555 U.S. 122 (2009); Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008); James v. United States, 550 U.S. 192 (2007). V......
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741 cases
  • United States v. Taylor, Criminal No. 03–10 (CKK)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • August 9, 2017
    ...of the ACCA's residual clause before ultimately finding it void for vagueness in Johnson (2015). See generally Sykes v. United States , 564 U.S. 1, 131 (S.Ct. 2267, 180 L.Ed.2d 60 2011) ; James v. United States , 550 U.S. 192, 127 S.Ct. 1586, 167 L.Ed.2d 532 (2007). Moreover, the Supreme Co......
  • Dupler v. Hunter, Case No. 3:16-cv-191-J-34MCR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • August 11, 2017
    ...the officer reason to believe that the [suspect] has something more serious than a traffic violation to hide." Sykes v. United States, 564 U.S. 1, 9, 131 S. Ct. 2267, 2273, 180 L. Ed.2d 60 (2011), overruled on other grounds, Johnson v. United States, ___U.S.___, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 192 L. Ed.2......
  • United States v. Doyle, No. 10–5075.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • June 25, 2012
    ...our judgment and remanded the case for further consideration in light of its recent decision, Sykes v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 2267, 180 L.Ed.2d 60 (2011). See Rogers v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 3018, 180 L.Ed.2d 842 (2011) (mem.). For the reasons that follow,......
  • Dean v. United States, C18-4044-LTS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 28, 2021
    ...to define the contours of which prior convictions were “violent felonies” under the residual clause. See Sykes v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2267 (2011); Chambers v. United States, 555 U.S. 122 (2009); Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008); James v. United States, 550 U.S. 192 (2007). V......
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3 books & journal articles
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    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 Nbr. 3, February 2022
    • February 1, 2022
    ...560 U.S. 218 (2010); Abbott v. United States, 562 U.S. 8 (2010); McNeill v. United States, 563 U.S. 816 (2011); Sykes v. United States, 564 U.S. 1 (2011); Derby v. United States, 564 U.S. 1047 (2011); Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. 99 (2013); Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (201......
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    • June 1, 2015
    ...M. J. (2009). The scope of qualified immunity in civil rights cases. AELE Monthly Law Journal, 2, 501–508. Sykes v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2267 (2011).Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985).Terrell v. Smith, No. 10-14908 (11th Cir. 2012).Van Vorous v. Burmeister, 96 Fed. Appx. 312, 314 (......
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    • March 1, 2016
    ...and interrogation. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.Cleary and Vidal 113 J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 564 U.S. 1 (2011).Kahn, R., Zapf, P. A., & Cooper, V. G. (2006). Readability of Miranda warnings and waivers: Implications forevaluating Miranda comprehens......

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