Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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Yanez pled no contest to possessing more than one kilogram of methamphetamine for sale (Health & Safety Code 11378; 11370.4(b)(1)) and admitted a prior strike conviction. The court had imposed home detention subject to electronic monitoring as a condition of reducing Yanez’s bail from $480,000 to $100,000. By the time of his sentencing hearing, Yanez had spent 555 days on electronic home detention, in a program authorized by Alameda County. The trial court sentenced Yanez to serve five years and eight months in state prison. Although the court granted him custody credits for his home confinement (Penal Code 2900.5(a)), it deemed him ineligible for conduct credits. No statute provides for such credits but post-judgment home detainees are eligible for conduct credit under Penal Code 4019. The court of appeal reversed. The disparity in eligibility for conduct credits between pretrial and post-judgment electronic monitoring home detainees violates equal protection; the pre-sentencing time Yanez spent on home detention is eligible for conduct credits notwithstanding the Legislature’s failure to provide for them in section 4019. View "People v. Yanez" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Manuel Bracamontes was sentenced to death in 2005 for the kidnapping and murder of nine-year-old Laura Arroyo. His automatic appeal was pending with the California Supreme Court. In anticipation of a future petition for writ of habeas corpus, Bracamontes filed a motion with the San Diego County Superior Court to preserve evidence that may be relevant to such a petition. His motion sought a preservation order covering relevant physical and documentary evidence in the hands of the prosecution, various government entities, and four private individuals or entities that were the subject of this proceeding: Norman Sperber, a forensic dentist and tool mark expert; Rod Englert, a retired police officer and crime scene reconstructionist; and Orchid Cellmark, Inc. (Cellmark) and Serological Research Institute, Inc. (SERI), two forensic laboratories that conduct DNA testing and analysis. Bracamontes relied on California v. Superior Court, 2 Cal.5th 523 (Morales, 2017), which held that a court had jurisdiction to order preservation of evidence potentially subject to postconviction discovery under Penal Code section 1054.9.1 The superior court granted Bracamontes's motion in large part, but it declined to issue preservation orders to Sperber, Englert, Cellmark, or SERI, determining that evidence in the possession of these private parties would not be subject to postconviction discovery under section 1054.9 and therefore the court had no jurisdiction to order its preservation. Bracamontes challenged the superior court's determination by petition for writ of mandate, and the Court of Appeal summarily denied the petition. The California Supreme Court then granted review and transferred the matter back to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration. After reconsideration, the appellate court concluded the superior court erred by denying the preservation order directed at Cellmark and SERI; these entities participated in the investigation of Arroyo's murder at the behest and under the direction of law enforcement. “Sperber and Englert, by contrast, were retained solely for their testimony at trial as independent expert witnesses.” The Court therefore granted the petition in part and denied it in part. View "Bracamontes v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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After defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, he appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence, as well as conditions of his supervised release. The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction, holding that the search of defendant's home was lawful. However, the panel held that three conditions of supervised release -- requiring defendant to support his dependents and meet other family responsibilities, that he work regularly at a lawful occupation, and that he notify third parties of risks that may be occasioned by his criminal record or personal history or characteristics -- were unconstitutionally vague under United States v. Evans, 883 F.3d 1154 (9th Cir. 2018). The panel vacated the supervised release conditions and remanded with instructions to impose whatever alternative conditions the district court deemed appropriate. The panel explained that rewriting a provision of a sentence would exceed its authority under 18 U.S.C. 3742(f)(1), and thus it did not need to consider how section 3742(f)(1) affected its authority to modify a sentence without remanding. View "United States v. Ped" on Justia Law

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Defendants Albarran and Vasquez pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin, and Albarran also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The Second Circuit affirmed Vasquez's 151 month sentence, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by assessing the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors and acted within its discretion when it sentenced him. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of Albarran's motion to withdraw his guilty plea where Albarran has not carried his burden of showing a fair and just reason for withdrawing his guilty plea. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion, because Albarran failed to sufficiently demonstrate his legal innocence or raise a significant question about the voluntariness of his original plea, and the judge reasonably concluded that granting Albarran's belated motion to withdraw would prejudice the government. View "United States v. Albarran" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 240 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine and 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine. The court held that defendant's prior conviction for assault with intent to inflict serious injury in violation of Iowa Code 708.2(1) and 903.1(2) qualified as a crime of violence under the career-offender enhancement, because the crime necessarily involved the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force. View "United States v. Quigley" on Justia Law

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Defendant Mario Arreola-Botello was lawfully stopped for failing to signal a turn and a lane change. During the stop, while defendant was searching for his registration and proof of insurance, the officer asked him about the presence of guns and drugs in the vehicle, and requested consent to search the vehicle. Defendant consented, and during the search, the officer found a controlled substance. Defendant contended that the officer expanded the permissible scope of the traffic stop when he asked about the contents of the vehicle and requested permission to search it because those inquiries were not related to the purpose of the stop. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with defendant that the trial court erred in denying defendant’s motion to suppress what the officer found, and reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Oregon v. Arreola-Botello" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of criminal conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, holding that the district court did not err in overruling Defendant's motion to suppress and that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in declining to suppress evidence obtained during and derived from an electronic interception of Defendant's cellular telephone communications; (2) the district court correctly determined that the State's submission of an application to intercept Defendant's communications to the Attorney General two days prior to submitting it to the court did not violate the timing requirement of Neb. Rev. Stat. 86-291; and (3) the interception of Defendant's communications while he was outside the State of Nebraska was within the territorial jurisdiction of the court because the communications were redirected and first listened to at a Nebraska listening post. View "State v. Brye" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the district court approving a sheriff's claim for reimbursement of jail room and board for Defendant's pretrial detention, holding that because the sheriff did not ask that the fees be included in restitution the district court was not required to take into account Defendant's reasonable ability to pay. Defendant was convicted of arson in the second degree. Thereafter, the sheriff sought recovery of fees under Iowa Code 356.7 for Defendant's 197 days of incarceration at the county jail but did not ask that the fees be included in restitution. The district court ordered Defendant to pay the requested amount. Defendant appealed, arguing that the court should have determined his reasonable ability to pay the jail fees before awarding them. The court of appeals affirmed the order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the fees were not awarded as part of restitution the amount was not subject to the "reasonable ability to pay" limitations on restitution set forth in Iowa Code chapter 910. View "State v. Gross" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming both Defendant's judgment of conviction and the denial of his motion to suppress, holding that the court of appeals did not err in determining that law enforcement's search of Defendant's pursuant pursuant to 2013 Wisconsin Act 79 was valid. The officer in this case observed Defendant riding a bicycle in violation of a city ordinance. Defendant's movements concerned the officer, and the officer ordered Defendant to stop. The officer proceeded to search Defendant, asserting that had a legal basis to search him under Act 79 because, part, he knew Defendant was on supervision. Defendant was subsequently charged with drug offenses, and the circuit court denied Defendant's motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court's finding of fact that the officer had knowledge of Defendant's supervision status prior to conducting the warrantless search at issue in this case was not clearly erroneous; (2) corroborated tips of an unnamed informant may be considered in the analysis of the totality of the circumstances; and (3) under the totality of the circumstances, the officer in this case had reasonable suspicion that Defendant was committing, was about to commit, or had committed a crime. View "State v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Charged with a misdemeanor, Daws waived his statutory right to be brought to trial within 45 days during an off-the-record conversation in chambers. When the case was called, Daws’s counsel stated that his client intended to withdraw his time waiver and requested a trial date within 30 days. The court rejected this request, explaining that Daws must provide two days’ written notice to the prosecution before withdrawing his time waiver. The court scheduled trial for 80 days later, but invited Daws to provide two days’ written notice to withdraw his time waiver and have an earlier trial date. Daws declined to do so, waited for 30 days to elapse, and then filed an unsuccessful motion to dismiss The court of appeal denied a petition for relief. Penal Code section 1382 requires a defendant to provide “proper notice” to all parties before withdrawing a time waiver in open court but does not specify what is “proper.” Trial courts have inherent authority to determine by local rule or as a matter of courtroom practice what “proper notice” means, so long as the required notice is consonant with the defendant’s right to a speedy trial under the California Constitution and the Sixth Amendment; two days’ written notice meets that standard. View "Daws v. Superior Court" on Justia Law