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Circuit Court affirms admission of drugs, sentence

July 22, 2011

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a man’s argument that his past conviction of vehicular flight isn’t a crime of violence, citing a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court on that matter.

In United State of America v. Jadrion Griffin, No. 10-2028, Jadrion Griffin appealed the denial of his motion to suppress a bag of crack-cocaine found in a parking lot after his low-speed chase with police. Griffin claimed he was illegally seized when he threw the drugs in the snow, so the drugs should have been suppressed. He also challenged his 360-month sentence for drug convictions and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, claiming he shouldn’t have been sentenced as a career offender because his prior conviction of vehicular flight under Indiana law isn’t a crime of violence. He also claimed he should be re-sentenced using the new crack-to-power ratio prescribed by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

The judges had to decide when the seizure of Griffin occurred – when the police initially began following Griffin and activated their lights indicating they wanted him to pull over or when Griffin actually pulled over. Griffin argued that the seizing was a continuous act initiated upon the show of authority by police, but the 7th Circuit rejected his argument, citing California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 629 (1991). A seizure by show of authority doesn’t occur unless and until the suspect submits, wrote Judge Diane Sykes.

His argument that he was improperly sentenced because the District Court improperly classified him as a career offender under the sentencing guidelines was quickly dismissed by the federal appellate court. Griffin claimed vehicular flight doesn’t qualify as a crime of violence under the guidelines, but Sykes v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2267 (2011), says otherwise. The Indiana case dealing with this issue was pending before U.S. Supreme Court when Griffin was argued, so the judges held the instant case.

SCOTUS agreed with the 7th Circuit in Sykes that a conviction for vehicular flight under Indiana law is a crime of violence, leaving Griffin without a leg to stand on, wrote Judge Sykes.

The Circuit Court also rejected his argument that he should be re-sentenced under the FSA because it should be applied retroactively. The relevant date for determining retroactivity is the date of the underlying criminal conduct, and because the FSA was signed into law long after Griffin’s underlying conduct, it has no bearing on his sentence, the court ruled.

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