Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

by
The Court of Appeal held that sufficient evidence supported defendant's conviction for mayhem where the victim's scarring from the stabbing attack constituted sufficient evidence to support defendant's conviction. The court also held that the abstract of judgment must be corrected to reflect a conviction for mayhem; the trial court did not infringe on defendant's constitutional rights by finding that his prior juvenile adjudication constituted a strike; and remand was necessary for the trial court to impose a sentence on the count 3 great bodily injury enhancement. View "People v. Romero" on Justia Law

by
Dr. Kevin Donahue was walking home one night when he saw a woman outside his neighbor’s house. Dr. Donahue thought she was trespassing, and he got into a heated conversation with her. They approached two police officers, Officer Shaun Wihongi and Officer Shawn Bennett, who were investigating an incident a few houses away. The officers questioned them separately. The woman told Officer Wihongi her name was “Amy LaRose,” which later turned out to be untraceable. She claimed Dr. Donahue was drunk and had insulted her. Dr. Donahue refused to provide his name but admitted he had been drinking and said the woman had hit him. The officers eventually arrested and handcuffed Dr. Donahue. Dr. Donahue sued Officer Wihongi, the Salt Lake City Police Department (“SLCPD”), and Salt Lake City Corporation (“SLC”). He alleged Officer Wihongi violated his Fourth Amendment rights by: (1) arresting him without probable cause; (2) using excessive force during the arrest; and (3) detaining him for too long. Officer Wihongi moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion on all three claims and dismissed the case. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Donahue v. Wihongi" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for first degree murder of a Border Patrol agent, conspiracy to interfere with and attempted interference with commerce by robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act, and assault on a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. The panel held that defendants were properly extradited in accordance with the terms of the United States's treaty with Mexico; the jury instructions for the Hobbs Act offenses were not plainly erroneous; defendants' argument that the instructions constituted a constructive amendment of the indictment was without merit; and the evidence was sufficient to establish that defendants took a substantial step toward commission of the robbery offense. In a concurrently-filed memorandum opinion, the panel vacated defendants' convictions for carrying and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. View "United States v. Soto-Barraza" on Justia Law

by
Hodge was charged with three counts of using, carrying, or possessing a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c) after he shot two armored-vehicle workers and stole $33,500. A jury convicted Hodge of two counts. In 2015, the District Court of the Virgin Islands sentenced Hodge to an aggregate 420 months imprisonment on the two counts—the then-mandatory minimum for first-time 924(c) offenders convicted of two counts involving discharging a firearm—plus another 310 months on other counts. The Third Circuit affirmed as to the federal counts but remanded the territorial charges with instructions to vacate two territorial counts and to conduct the “requisite resentencing.” Before resentencing took place, the First Step Act became law, amending section 924(c) so that first-time offenders convicted of two counts involving discharging a firearm and stemming from the same indictment now face a 240-month mandatory minimum. The district court declined to disturb Hodge’s federal sentence. The Third Circuit affirmed. The post–First Step Act modification of Hodge’s territorial sentence does not permit Hodge to invoke the reduced section 924(c) mandatory minimum. View "United States v. Hodge" on Justia Law

by
In 2002, Holloway was convicted of a DUI at the highest blood alcohol content (BAC). The charge was dismissed upon his completion of an accelerated rehabilitation program. In 2005, Holloway was again arrested for DUI and registered a BAC of 0.192%. Holloway pled guilty to violating 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. 3802(c) for driving under the influence at the highest BAC (greater than 0.16%). He received a sentence of 60 months’ “Intermediate Punishment,” including 90-days’ imprisonment that allowed him work-release. In 2016, Holloway sought to purchase a firearm but was unable to do so because of his disqualifying DUI conviction, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). Holloway sought a declaration that section 922(g)(1) is unconstitutional as applied to him. The district court granted Holloway summary judgment and entered a permanent injunction barring the government from enforcing section 922(g)(1) against him. The Third Circuit reversed. Pennsylvania’s DUI law, which makes a DUI at the highest BAC a first-degree misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, constitutes a serious crime that requires disarmament. The prohibition does not violate Holloway’s Second Amendment rights. View "Holloway v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
Ingram committed three robberies and one attempted robbery. Police identified Ingram from his social media postings and two anonymous tips. Charged with three counts of Hobbs Act robbery and one count of attempted Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and four counts of brandishing a firearm in connection with each of those crimes of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c), Ingram admitted guilt as to Counts 1–4 but contested the four 924(c) charges. During the first robbery, Ingram shoved into the store clerk’s back what she believed was a gun. The clerk did not see, and the security cameras did not capture an image of, the object that Ingram shoved against her back. During the next robbery, he pulled out a gun and demanded money. Three days later, Ingram robbed another salon, threatening a clerk and customers with a gun. Ingram then tried to rob a store. Despite her terror at Ingram’s weapon, the clerk could not open the register. Ingram argued that the government had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the object he had brandished was actually a firearm. The district court rejected that argument; he was convicted on all counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction and that his conviction on Count 8 cannot stand because attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a crime of violence. View "United States v. Ingram" on Justia Law

by
Defendant appealed from the trial court's order imposing a $100 fine under Penal Code section 29810 for failure to complete a firearms disclosure form. The Court of Appeal reversed the order, holding that the statutory procedures for prosecuting an infraction were not followed. In this case, the trial court essentially charged defendant with an infraction, conducted a trial, found him guilty, and imposed the $100 fine on him for violating section 29810—all in the presence of the district attorney. However, the district attorney did not charge or approve the charging of an infraction. Therefore, the trial court had no authority to impose punishment for committing an infraction in these circumstances. View "People v. Villatoro" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction for murder and firearms offenses, holding that the administrative judge did not abuse his discretion in finding good cause for the continuance of the trial date. Under the Hicks rule, a criminal trial in a circuit court must commence within 180 days of the first appearance of the defendant or defense counsel in the circuit court. This deadline is known as the Hicks date. A continuance of the trial beyond the Hicks date may be granted only for good cause. Here, the administrative judge found good cause to postpone Defendant's trial from the original trial date based on the State's need to provide additional discovery to the defense. Defendant's trial began approximately forty days after the Hicks date, but the court believed that the deadline under the Hicks rule was tolled for the period of time during which evidence was at a lab for DNA analysis. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the "Hicks rule" does not incorporate a mechanism for tolling or extending the Hicks date; but (2) the administrative judge properly found good cause for the continuance, and Defendant did not carry his burden of demonstrate that there was an inordinate delay in the new trial date. View "Tunnell v. State" on Justia Law

by
In 2017, the Union County Sheriff’s Department seized six horses, four cats and three dogs belonging to Michael Dancy. The Justice Court of Union County found Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty and ordered the permanent forfeiture of Dancy’s animals. Dancy appealed to the Circuit Court of Union County, where a bench trial was held de novo. The circuit court ordered that the animals be permanently forfeited and found Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty. The circuit court further ordered Dancy to reimburse the temporary custodian of the horses $39,225 for care and boarding costs incurred during the pendency of the forfeiture and animal-cruelty proceedings. Aggrieved, Dancy appealed to the Mississippi SUpreme Court. Finding the forfeiture and reimbursement orders supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed. Furthermore, the Court found the circuit court did not abse its discretion in allowing a veterinarian testify for the State. The Supreme Court affirmed Dancy’s conviction under Section 97-41-7, and Section 97-41- 16(2)(a) that coincided with Union County Justice Court Arrest Warrant 7036216. However, the Court found Section 97-41-16(2)(a) made Dancy’s cruelty to his dogs and cats one offense. As a result, Dancy’s second conviction under Section 97-41-16(2)(a) that coincides with Union County Justice Court Arrest Warrant 7036219 was vacated. View "Dancy v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
In 2011, Dominick Humphrey pled guilty to four counts of robbery (counts 2, 3, 4 and 24). For three of these counts (counts 2, 3, and 4), Humphrey admitted that he used a deadly weapon (a knife) during the commission of the offenses, and used a firearm during the commission of one of the counts (count 24). Humphrey also admitted that he was 16 years old when he committed the crimes within the meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code section 707. The trial court sentenced Humphrey to prison for 19 years. Five years into Humphrey's sentence, an employee of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) wrote a letter to the superior court, stating that the abstract of judgment "may be in error, or incomplete[.]" In 2018, the trial court clarified that Humphrey was sentenced to 15 years for count 24 and the associated firearm enhancement and consecutive 16-month terms for counts 2, 3, and 4 (including their deadly weapon enhancements). An amended abstract of judgment was issued showing a sentence of 19 years in state prison. Thereafter, Humphrey moved to strike the firearm enhancement under Senate Bill No. 620. The trial court denied the motion because Humphrey's conviction became final before the enactment of Senate Bill No. 620. Appellate counsel filed a "Wende" brief, indicating that he had not been able to identify any arguable issue for reversal on appeal, but asked the Court of Appeal to review the record for error as Wende mandated. In reviewing the record, the Court discovered an issue to be briefed, and the parties were requested to brief whether the trial court erred in finding Humphrey ineligible for relief under Senate Bill 620 after the trial court acted to correct the abstract of judgment. Find that the trial court only made plain how the original sentence should have appeared on the amended abstract of judgment, the Court of Appeal determined Humphrey did not file a notice of appeal following the original 2011 sentence. His case became final in 2011. Senate Bill 620 took effect January 1, 2018, and Humphrey's was not entitled to retroactive application of the law to his sentence. Therefore the trial court did not err in denying his motion for resentencing. View "California v. Humphrey" on Justia Law