Skip to main content

Pennsylvania Resisting Arrest is Crime of Violence Under Begay

In United States v. Stinson, No. 08-1717, the Third Circuit recently ruled that Pennsylvania Resisting Arrest is a crime of violence under Begay. The Pennsylvania statue specifies two ways in which a defendant may resist arrest: (1) by creating a substantial risk of bodily injury to an officer or another; or (2) by employing means justifying or requiring substantial force to overcome the resistance. The Court held that the first "fits squarely within the definition of a crime of violence in the residual clause." Under Begay, the Court had to analyze whether the second "typically involve[s] purposeful, violent, and aggressive conduct." The Court held that it does.


"Such conduct poses as great or greater a risk as burglary or extortion . . . . [R]esisting arrest necessarily involves confronting the authority of a police officer who is likely armed and charged with defending the public . . . . [T]he offense engenders a significant risk of conflict and, correspondingly, a significant risk of injury." It is "by definition, purposeful, aggressive and violent," because the statute requires "the intent of preventing a public servant from effectuating a lawful arrest . . . . and knowingly engaging in conflict with another." [Note: This seems to invoke the "powder keg" theory rejected by the Supreme Court in Chambers. The Court purports to distinguish resisting arrest from its walk-away escape decision, Hopkins, in a footnote, however: "[Misdemeanor escape 'is conduct materially less violent and aggressive than the enumerated offenses." . . . Such is not the case with resisting arrest."]


Stinson had argued that because resisting arrest could include passive resistance, it should not be a categorical crime of violence, relying on Commonwealth v. Thompson, 922 A.2d 926 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2007), a case in which the defendant and her husband had interlocked arms and legs and refused to respond to commands of officers. The Court found that Thompson was "hardly passive," yelling and waving her hands in an attempt to scare an officer's horse, "causing the animal to rear up," and struggling with the officers "for a few minutes." The Court "found no decision . . . that affirmed a conviction for resisting arrest based on a defendant's inaction or simply 'lying down or 'going limp.'" [Note: This seems to ignore the reality that most resisting arrest prosecutions are resolved without a trial, so there are few reported cases.]

The Court then asserted that the "'ordinary' or 'typical' fact scenario underlying resisting arrest convictions in Pennsylvania" involves purposeful, violent and aggressive conduct.

This was a disappointing result, especially because the Court had granted panel rehearing of the first adverse decision. The Third Circuit Defenders participated as amicus, and David McColgin, EDPA, presented very strong oral argument on behalf of Mr. Stinson.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Double Jeopardy Claim Falls Short on Deferential Habeas Review

In the habeas matter of Wilkerson v. Superintendent Fayette SCI, Nos. 15-1598 & 15-2673, the Third Circuit defers to a state court determination that the defendant’s conviction of both an attempted murder count and an aggravated assault count based on the same altercation did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause.
The evidence was that during the altercation, the defendant both struck the victim in the head with a gun and shot him in the chest. The Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld consecutive sentences on the theory that the evidence was sufficient to permit a jury to find the striking to support one count and the shooting the other. Despite the jury instructions’ and verdict form’s failure to require each of these discrete findings, the Third Circuit holds that the state court’s reasoning was sound enough to withstand deferential review the AEDPA’s “clearly established Federal law” limitation. “[W]here the jury instructions were merely ambiguous and did not foreclose the jury…

Mailing Threatening Communications is a Crime of Violence and a Judicial Proposal for Reform of the Categorical Approach

In United States v. Chapman, __F.3d__, No. 16-1810, 2017 WL 3319287 (3d Cir. Aug. 4, 2017), the Third Circuit held that mailing a letter containing any threat to injure the recipient or another person in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876(c) qualifies as a crime of violence for the purposes of the career offender enhancements of the Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 4B1.1(a).The Court acknowledged in a footnote that the analysis is the same for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 871, threats against the president.


The Court began its analysis by reviewing the definition of “crime of violence” and specifically the meaning of the words “use” and “physical force.”Quoting United States v. Castleman, 134 S. Ct. 1405 (2014), and Tran v. Gonzales, 414 F.3d 464 (3d Cir. 2005), it defined “use” as “the intentional employment of force, generally to obtain some end,” which conveys the notion that the thing used “has become the user’s instrument.” The Court confirmed the definition of “physical force” as “force ca…

A Traffic Stop Followed by a Summons is not an Intervening Arrest for Sentencing Guidelines Purposes

In United States v. Ley, __ F.3d __, 2017 WL 5618617 (3d Cir., Nov. 22, 2017), the Third Circuit held that a traffic stop, followed by the issuance of a summons, is not an intervening arrest for the purpose of calculating a defendant’s prior convictions under USSG § 4A1.2(a)(2).   Defendant John Francis Ley received two speeding tickets on two consecutive days.  After writing each ticket, the police released Ley and informed him that the matter would proceed via summons.  No arrest was made and Ley was sentenced for both matters on the same day. The District Court, however, held that the issuance of the summons constituted an intervening arrest for the purposes of the Guidelines and each ticket therefore merited an individual criminal history point.  Ley appealed.  Looking at the ordinary meaning of both “arrest” and “summons,” as well as the Supreme Court’s history of distinguishing arrests from other interactions with law enforcement, the Third Circuit, joining three other circuits …