Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of attempted aggravated robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court rejected petitioner's claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney failed to conduct a sufficient pretrial investigation. In this case, petitioner failed to show prejudice under Strickland v. Washington or other clearly established federal law, because he did not allege what a sufficient investigation would have uncovered or how it would have changed his trial outcome. View "Adekeye v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence for several health-care-related offenses in connection with recruiting and transporting individuals to Texas Tender Care (TTC) for treatment. The court held that the district court did not err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for offenses involving more than ten victims under USSG 2B1.1(b)(2)(A)(i); an eighteen-level enhancement for losses of more than $3.5 million under USSG 2B1.1(b)(1)(J); and a three-level enhancement for loss to a government healthcare program of more than $7 million under USSG 2B1.1(b)(7)(B)(ii). View "United States v. Ainabe" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction for attempted premeditated murder of two police officers and possession of a firearm by a felon. In the published portion of the opinion, the court held that People v. Dueñas (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1157, was wrongly decided, and that a constitutional challenge to the imposition of fines, fees, and assessments should be based on the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment instead of the due process rationale utilized in Dueñas. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "People v. Aviles" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit held that the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act (PROTECT Act) was constitutional as applied to defendant, who was indicted for producing child pornography and sexually abusing a child while residing in Vietnam in 2015. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of the indictment and held that each of the provisions of the Act that defendant challenged was rationally related to implementing the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. The court held that the provisions of the PROTECT Act that criminalize child sexual abuse and production of child pornography by U.S. citizens living abroad help to fulfill the United States' responsibility under the Optional Protocol to criminalize, "as a minimum," child prostitution and child pornography production by U.S. nationals wherever that conduct occurs. Furthermore, the Foreign Commerce Clause supports application of U.S. law to economic activity abroad that could otherwise impair the effectiveness of a comprehensive regulatory regime to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children. View "United States v. Park" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of attempting to knowingly induce or entice a minor to engage in sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2422(b), solicitation of another to commit the crime of federal kidnapping under 18 U.S.C. 1201(a) in violation of 18 U.S.C. 373, and knowingly transmitting a communication containing a threat to kidnap in violation of 18 U.S.C. 875(c). The Eleventh Circuit held that sufficient evidence supported defendant's conviction for Count 1, and the district court did not err in rejecting the testimony of two proposed experts. However, because section 1201(a) can be violated without the "use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another" as required by section 373(a)'s force clause, and because the court knows from Curtis Johnson v. United States and its progeny that "physical force" does not include "intellectual force or emotional force," defendant's 373 conviction must be reversed. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "United States v. Gillis" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit held that petitioner's prior Texas conviction for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver was a violation of a state law "relating to a controlled substance" as defined in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Therefore, the court held that petitioner failed to show that the BIA erred in finding that his Texas drug delivery conviction rendered him removable. The court also held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the BIA's discretionary decision to deny cancellation of removal. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's finding of removability and discretionary denial of petitioner's application for cancellation of removal. View "Padilla v. Bar" on Justia Law

by
A.W. committed five counts of felony vandalism. The court declared minor a ward of the state and ordered him to serve 37 days in juvenile hall. The sole question on appeal was whether the evidence supported a finding that, for each count, “the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction [was] four hundred dollars ($400) or more,” as required to elevate the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. The Court of Appeal determined the only competent testimony on that issue came from an employee of the City of Palmdale who helped prepare an analysis of the average cost to clean up an instance of graffiti. The Court determined: (1) use of an average, by itself, was not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the amount of damage inflicted by minor was equal to the average cleanup cost, rather than some other number; (2) the calculation included the cost of law enforcement, which, though proper in certain restitution settings, was not a proper consideration in assessing the damage minor inflicted under the applicable statute; and (3) Palmdale’s methodology for calculating the average cost is flawed. The Court reversed adjudication in part with direction to reduce the felony counts to misdemeanors. View "In re A.W." on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's order denying defendant's petition for recall of his sentence pursuant to Penal Code, section 1170.126. The court held that the trial court's determination that defendant intended to inflict great bodily injury was supported by substantial evidence. In this case, the trial court properly inferred defendant's intent from the circumstances surrounding the battery, and actual infliction of great bodily injury is not a prerequisite to finding intent to cause such injury. View "People v. Thomas" on Justia Law

by
In 2001, Greco threatened to put a pipe bomb in his ex-girlfriend’s car. She obtained a protective order. He put the bomb in her car. It exploded, injuring her and destroying her car. Greco pleaded guilty to manufacturing and possessing an unregistered pipe bomb. 26 U.S.C. 5861(d) and 5861(f). The government informed the court that this was the third time in 10 years Greco had detonated a pipe bomb. Greco's 180-month prison sentence ended in 2015. Greco was to remain on supervised release until April 2018. One condition of that release was that he would “not commit another federal, state or local crime.” He violated that condition when he posted threatening Facebook messages about another ex-girlfriend despite a court order not to contact her. A federal judge approved a warrant for Greco’s arrest in March 2018. Seven months later another judge revoked his supervised release and ordered a new term of imprisonment, with a new term of supervised release. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the court lacked jurisdiction to revoke Greco's supervised release because the warrant was not supported by probable cause. The judge received a report explaining how Greco had broken the terms of his release by violating state law, which was enough to establish probable cause. The court remanded for clarification of the conditions the court imposed for his second term of supervised release. View "United States v. Greco" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction for criminal threats against the mother of his daughter. The court held that defendant's threats against his child's mother constitute domestic violence under Family Code section 6211, a statutory section expressly cross-referenced in Penal Code section 136.2, subdivision (i)(1), and therefore the trial court properly issued the protective order. The court also held that the due process analysis in People v. Dueñas (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1157, did not support its broad holding and was distinguishable on its facts from this case. View "People v. Caceres" on Justia Law