Nichole Walsch


In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that the Minnesota offense of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle is not a "crime of violence" for the purposes of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (Sentencing Guidelines), a crime of violence is defined as any state or federal offense "punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" that involves the use of physical force against another person or that "is burglary of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." If the offender has two prior convictions for crimes of violence or controlled substances offenses, the court may consider the defendant a "career offender," which could result in a much stiffer sentence." The Eighth Circuit's holding that fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle is not a crime of violence is the minority position among circuits that have considered the issue. Despite the overwhelming opposition to the Eighth Circuit's position, this Note argues that the Eighth Circuit reached the correct conclusion because the crime of fleeing an officer does not always present a serious risk of physical harm to others and because fleeing is not an inherently aggressive or violent act. Unfortunately, the court's focus on Minnesota's statutory language makes the United States v. Tyler decision of limited precedential value when interpreting the statutes of other states. Each state within the Eighth Circuit, including Missouri, has different statutory language that could lead courts to an opposite outcome. Such uncertainty makes it difficult for state court judges and attorneys to know when a defendant should be labeled as a career offender based on a conviction for fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle. Therefore, the Eighth Circuit's focus on Minnesota's statutory language has the potential to create vast sentencing inequalities among defendants who commit similar crimes in different states. This disparity seems highly unfair and completely at odds with the purpose of the Sentencing Guidelines, which is to create uniform sentencing and to curtail judicial discretion.

Included in

Law Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.