Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Supreme Court's ruling abrogates Rivers . . . maybe.

Sykes v. United States, --- S. Ct. ----, 2011 WL 2224437 (June 9, 2011):

(This case concerns an analysis of South Carolina's Blue Light Law, which the Fourth Circuit found not to constitute a crime of violence.  For other blog entries concerning the fallout from this finding, click here.)

Whether South Carolina's "Failure to Stop for a Blue Light" law constitutes a crime of violence for purposes of sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act has a discursive history in the district and appellate courts.  In December, the District of South Carolina granted a § 2255 motion after determining that the defendant has been sentenced as an armed career criminal with one of his predicate offenses arising under this law.  The holding was based on Rivers, an opinion in which the Fourth Circuit applied the Supreme Court's reasoning in Chambers v. United States, 555 U.S. 122 (2009), to determine that a violation of South Carolina's blue-light law could never constitute a violent felony under the ACCA.  Rivers, 595 F.3d at 565.

Now, however, the Supreme Court of the United States has weighed in . . . almost.  The Supreme Court, in Sykes v. United States, --- S. Ct. ----, 2011 WL 2224437 (June 9, 2011) holds that Indiana's similar crime does constitute a crime of violence.  Where does this leave Rivers?  The Supreme Court doesn't cite Rivers, even though the Court does cite the positions of seven other Circuit Courts of Appeals on both sides of the issue, including one opinion issued after Rivers, see United States v. McConnell, 605 F. 3d 822, 827–30 (10th Cir. May 19, 2010).

With such a fact-intensive inquiry for each statute analyzed, it is likely that the Fourth Circuit will need to look at Rivers after Sykes and issue another chapter in the Blue Light Law saga.

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