Justia Construction Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Defendant-appellant Antoine Frazier appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained during a roadside search of his vehicle in 2019. A Utah state trooper pulled defendant over for speeding. The trooper did not begin the standard procedures necessary to issue a citation. Instead, he immediately began trying to contact a canine handler with the local sheriff’s office, so he could come to the scene and perform a dog sniff of the vehicle. At first, the trooper tried contacting the deputy via the instant-messaging system on his vehicle’s computer. When the deputy failed to respond to several messages, the trooper tried callling him on the radio. When the deputy again failed to respond, the trooper asked dispatch to locate him and send him to the scene. Approximately thirty minutes from the initial stop did the canine search defendant's vehicle, alerting to potential contraband. In this time, a records check from dispatch revealed defendant had pled guilty in 2006 to manslaughter; a pat-down search revealed defendant had a .22 caliber pistol in his pants pocket. Defendant was ultimately arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm, and for possession of fentanyl and cocaine with the intent to distribute. Defendant argued the evidence obtained from that search was inadmissible because the trooper improperly prolonged the traffic stop to facilitate a dog sniff and thereby obtain probable cause to search his vehicle. The Tenth Circuit reversed, finding the trooper departed from the traffic-based mission of the stop by arranging the dog sniff, "an investigative detour that was unsupported by reasonable suspicion and that added time to the stop. ...The trooper’s consultation of the DEA database, a second investigative detour, only aggravated that ongoing violation. Accordingly, the evidence discovered because of that seizure is tainted by its unlawfulness and is inadmissible." View "United States v. Frazier" on Justia Law

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Tyler Clapp appealed his conviction for driving under the influence. After stopping Clapp for “spinning cookies” in a parking lot, police became suspicious that Clapp was intoxicated. Clapp refused to submit to any field sobriety tests. Police then obtained a warrant for a blood draw, which showed that Clapp’s blood alcohol content (“BAC”) was 0.152 several hours after initially detaining him. At trial, the State sought to introduce the results of the blood draw. Over Clapp’s objection, the district court allowed the nurse who conducted the blood draw to testify telephonically to his qualifications in order to lay sufficient foundation to admit the results of the blood draw. The results of the blood draw were ultimately admitted, and the jury convicted Clapp of driving under the influence. Clapp appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court found the telephonic testimony violated Clapp’s right to confrontation, "'the face-to-face confrontation requirement is not absolute does not, of course, mean that it may be easily dispensed with. ... [A] defendant’s right to confront accusatory witnesses may be satisfied absent a physical, face-to-face confrontation at trial only where denial of such confrontation is necessary to further an important public policy and only where the reliability of the testimony is otherwise assured.' Both requirements must be met." Further, the Supreme Court determined the State failed to meet its burden establishing harmless error. The conviction was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Clapp" on Justia Law

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Officers responded to a shooting in an apartment building's parking lot. Three victims were transported to the hospital. Officers observed a security camera in the window of apartment 1, pointed toward the parking lot. After interviewing two witnesses, Detective Dunn viewed video footage from a business across the street, which corroborated their account. He learned that Haney, an occupant of unit 1, was involved in a dispute with the sister of two shooting victims. Dunn obtain a warrant to search Unit 1; other officers executed the warrant. An officer moved clothes in the bedroom closet and saw a sawed-off shotgun. He also seized a baggie of white powder, a laptop, and cell phones from the bedroom. Other officers seized cameras, a computer monitor, a Kindle, shotgun shells, pieces of a scale with traces of drug residue, photographs, and documents bearing the names of Haney and Saddler.Saddler later unsuccessfully moved to suppress all evidence seized during the search and an incriminating statement she later made concerning the shotgun. The Eighth Circuit affirmed her subsequent conviction as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The affidavit described facts that connected Haney to the shooting and created a fair probability that evidence that would aid in a particular apprehension or conviction would be found. Dunn’s reliance on the issuance of the warrant was objectively reasonable. In addition, the seizure of the shotgun satisfied the “plain view” exception. View "United States v. Saddler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court convicting Defendant of battery of a law enforcement officer and ordering Defendant to pay restitution in the amount of $2,649 to reimburse the workers compensation insurance carrier that paid the officer's medical bills arising out of the battery, holding that there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) criminal restitution does not violate the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution; and (2) the current structure of criminal restitution violates section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights but is remedied by severance. With today's holding, restitution may still be imposed by a judge either as part of the sentence, as contemplated by Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-6604(b), or as a condition of probation, as contemplated by Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-6607(c)(2). View "State v. Robison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of bail-jumping, one count for each scheduled trial he missed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in granting the State's Gillham motion to allow his former attorney to testify and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the District Court did not err by allowing Defendant's former attorney to testify as a state witness in his bail-jumping trial, and the testimony did not violate Defendant's right to effective assistance of counsel; and (2) Defendant's remaining ineffective assistance of counsel claims were unavailing. View "State v. Payne" on Justia Law

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Defendant Veng Xiong was convicted by jury on one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, and on weapons possession charges. On appeal, Defendant challenged his two firearm-related convictions based on what the Government admitted was an erroneous constructive possession charge tendered to the jury. The Tenth Circuit concluded Defendant did not meet his burden to show that there was a “reasonable probability that, but for the error, the outcome of the proceeding would have been different.” Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "United States v. Xiong" on Justia Law

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In 2007, a Louisiana jury found Edwards guilty of armed robbery, rape, and kidnapping. Louisiana law then permitted non-unanimous jury verdicts if at least 10 of the 12 jurors found the defendant guilty; 11 of 12 Edwards jurors returned a guilty verdict as to some crimes, and 10 of 12 jurors returned a guilty verdict as to others. After Edwards’s conviction became final, Edwards filed a federal habeas corpus petition. The district court rejected his argument that the non-unanimous jury verdict violated his constitutional rights as foreclosed by “Apodaca.” The Fifth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability.While Edwards’s petition for a writ of certiorari was pending, the Supreme Court repudiated Apodoca and held (“Ramos”) that a state jury must be unanimous to convict a criminal defendant of a serious offense.The Supreme Court affirmed with respect to Edwards. The Ramos jury-unanimity rule does not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. New rules of criminal procedure apply to cases on direct review, even if the defendant’s trial has already concluded but, historically, did not apply retroactively on federal collateral review unless a new rule constituted a “watershed” rule of criminal procedure. The Supreme Court has never found that any new procedural rule actually satisfies the “watershed” exception and acknowledged that the exception is “moribund.” Continuing to articulate a theoretical exception that never actually applies "offers false hope to defendants, distorts the law, misleads judges, and wastes" resources. View "Edwards v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress physical evidence and statements based on a police officer's alleged promise of leniency, holding that there was no improper promise of leniency.The officer at issue initiated a Terry stop on a public stop after observing Defendant make a possible drug buy. The officer told Defendant if he cooperated he would not be arrested that day but may be arrested later. Three months after Defendant handed over crack cocaine and marijuana the officer charged him with possession. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that the evidence obtained after the officer promised leniency was fruit of the poisonous tree. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the officer did not improperly promise leniency. View "State v. Hillery" on Justia Law

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Dunn slapped Schuckman in a bar's parking lot, causing him to fall to the ground. Witnesses reported seeing Schuckman upright and apparently unharmed afterward. Hours later, Schuckman was found dead on the bar’s patio. Dunn and Crochet were charged with felony murder, battery, and theft from a corpse. Dunn’s counsel consulted with a forensic pathologist. After viewing the medical examiner’s report, the pathologist believed that Schuckman died immediately from his head injuries—suggesting that Dunn’s slap could not have caused his death. Before trial, defense counsel repeatedly, erroneously, stated that the medical examiner had concluded that Schuckman died immediately from a fatal blow and would testify to that at trial. The medical examiner’s report did not contain such conclusions and counsel never confirmed them. The prosecutor informed Dunn’s counsel that Crochet had retained experts, who were going to produce reports that bolstered Dunn’s no-causation defense. The prosecution considered the reports exculpatory. Dunn’s counsel did not ask for a continuance or attempt to view the reports. At trial, defense counsel did not call his forensic pathologist as a witness. The medical examiner testified that there was no reason to think that Schuckman would have died immediately from the fatal head injury, and it would have been possible for Schuckman to move after sustaining this injury.The Seventh Circuit upheld an order granting federal habeas relief. Dunn’s trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate and offer evidence to support a no-causation defense and Dunn was prejudiced by that deficient performance. View "Dunn v. Jess" on Justia Law

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In 2014, a single Riverside County, California Superior Court judge signed 602 orders authorizing wiretaps, which was approximately 17 percent of all wiretaps authorized by all the state and federal courts in the nation. In 2015, the same judge and one other authorized 640 wiretaps, approximately 15 percent of all wiretaps in the country. Plaintiff-appellant Miguel Guerrero was targeted by a wiretap that a Riverside County judge authorized in 2015. Guerrero, who had never been arrested or charged with a crime in connection with the wiretap, wanted to know why he was targeted, and he believed the sheer number of wiretaps in those years raised significant doubts about whether the wiretaps complied with constitutional requirements. Relying on California's wiretap statutes and the First Amendment, he asked a trial court to allow him to inspect the wiretap order, application and intercepted communications. The trial court denied this request. After review, the Court of Appeal determined the trial court applied the wrong standard in considering Plaintiff's application under wiretap statutes, which closely paralleled statutes under federal law. The matter was remanded so that the trial court could properly exercise its discretion, and the Court provided guidance on the appropriate standard. Given this holding on the statutory issue, the Court declined to address the contention, advanced by Guerrero and an amicus brief, that the public had a First Amendment right of access to the wiretap materials. View "Guerrero v. Hestrin" on Justia Law