[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday heard oral argument in two criminal cases, one involving law enforcement creating exigent circumstances for entering a home without a warrant, and the other interpreting a provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) [18 U.S.C. § 924(e)]. In Kentucky v. King [SCOTUSblog materials; argument transcript], the Court will determine whether a lawful, police-created exigent circumstance is a permissible situation for a warrantless entry. Petitioner Hollis King was arrested and sentenced after law enforcement entered his apartment building in pursuit of an accused drug trafficker, whom police had witnessed selling drugs. In the interior of the building, police lost track of the suspect, however the scent of marijuana coming from King’s apartment prompted them to seek entrance to that unit. When noises from inside the apartment raised suspicion that the suspect was inside, the police entered and found a substantial amount of drugs, but not the original suspect. The Kentucky Supreme Court [official website], in holding that the warrant exception did not apply [opinion, PDF], announced a two-part test for police-created exigent circumstances, stating that the exigent circumstances exception does not apply if law enforcement created the exigent circumstances in bad faith or if the exigent circumstances were reasonably foreseeable from the police action. Kentucky sought certorari and at oral argument contended that the state Supreme Court’s test is inconsistent with the US Supreme Court’s repeated jurisprudence that, “the subjective intent of police officers when effecting a warrantless entry is irrelevant.”
In Sykes v. United States [SCOTUSblog materials; argument transcript], the Court will determine whether fleeing from law enforcement in a vehicle after being ordered to stop is a violent felony within the meaning of the ACCA. The petitioner, Marcus Sykes, faced an enhanced penalty under the ACCA for his third conviction of a violent felony after the District Court denied his objection that categorizing flight as a violent felony was inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Chambers v. United States [opinion, PDF], which held that failing to report for parole was separate and distinct from escaping from a penal institution, and thus outside of the category of violent felonies listed in the ACCA. Petitioner’s argument relied on the same distinction made in Chambers, namely that fleeing from police is a distince category of flight under the relevant Indiana statute [Indiana Code § 35-44-3], and that category falls outside of crimes considered violent felonies for the purposes of the ACCA. The Court will revisit the ACCA later in this term when it hears argument in McNeill v. United States [JURIST report].