U.S. v. Hudson, No. 07-4948

Decided Mar. 7, 2012

Tory Hudson was arrested for driving under a suspended license and during a search of the vehicle, officers located a revolver and ammunition. Hudson pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced by the district court to 180 months in prison under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The district court pointed to three prior incidents to support its decision to apply the statute; a conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and two no-contest pleas to a Florida statute criminalizing “fleeing or evading” a pursuing officer.

The district court relied on a Fourth Circuit precedent holding that a violation of a South Carolina statute similar to the one in Florida qualified as a violent felony. However, a subsequent United States Supreme Court case called that holding into question by reversing a Tenth Circuit decision and found that a DUI conviction is not a violent felony. Hudson also brought to the appellate court’s attention that the Eleventh Circuit had held that the exact Florida statute at issue did not constitute a violent felony. Then, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Sykes v. U.S. that abrogated the Eleventh Circuit’s decision by holding that intentionally fleeing from law enforcement was indeed a violent felony for purposes of the ACCA.

Based on this precedent and the Supreme Court’s recognition of the inherently violent risk of “intentional vehicular flight,” the Fourth Circuit affirmed Hudson’s sentence. Also, Hudson’s argument that the residual clause of the ACCA is unconstitutionally vague was rejected. Not only had Hudson failed to raise the issue in his opening brief, effectively waiving the argument, the Supreme Court has “consistently declined to find the residual clause void for vagueness.”

Full Opinion

-C. Alexander Cable

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