Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part Defendant's conviction of first-degree premeditated murder, second-degree intentional murder, and being an ineligible person in possession of a firearm, holding that the entry of a conviction for the offense of second-degree intentional murder violated Minn. Stat. 609.04.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in denying two requests for advisory counsel to assume full representation of Defendant's defense because Defendant did not make a valid request; (2) the record supported the district court's finding that Defendant voluntarily waived his right to counsel; and (3) the district court violated section 609.04 when it entered a conviction for the offense of second-degree intentional murder. View "State v. Woods" on Justia Law

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This case presented the question of whether defendants in criminal cases could have their cases dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because verdicts were rendered or sentences imposed on less than all counts of an indictment or accusation, or one or more counts were “dead- docketed.” The Georgia Supreme Court concluded it did: dead-docketing, while a common and longstanding practice in Georgia courts, had almost no statutory authority and none that would allow different treatment here. "And precedent from our Court of Appeals has for decades made clear that when a count is dead-docketed, the case remains pending in the trial court." Such a case cannot be appealed as a final judgment under OCGA 5-6-34 (a) (1); instead, it required a certificate of immediate review, which Demarquis Seals did not seek. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals’ dismissal of his appeal. View "Seals v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine base, and possessing controlled substances with intent to manufacture and distribute at least 280 grams of cocaine base. The court concluded that there was no error in applying the USSG 4B1.1 career offender enhancement because defendant's prior Iowa conviction for attempted murder qualified as a crime of violence and his Iowa drug conviction constituted a qualifying controlled substance offense. The court also concluded that defendant's 240-month sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court had wide latitude to consider the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and did not abuse its discretion. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Defendant Dean Jeffrey Stearns appeals the superior court’s dismissal of his motion for sentence reconsideration as untimely. In December 2018, defendant pleaded guilty to five counts of voyeurism and two counts of promoting a recording of sexual conduct. On January 23, 2020, he was sentenced to an aggregate term of ten to fifteen years’ imprisonment, suspended except five years to serve. Defendant filed a notice of appeal on February 20, 2020, but later moved to dismiss the appeal. The Vermont Supreme Court granted the motion to dismiss the appeal by entry order dated August 28, 2020. Pursuant to 13 V.S.A. 7042(a) and Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b), defendant moved for sentence reconsideration in the superior court ninety days later, on November 26, 2020. The superior court dismissed defendant’s motion for sentence reconsideration because the motion was filed more than ninety days after the sentence was imposed and, in its view, the Supreme Court’s order dismissing the appeal without affirming on the merits was not an “order or judgment of the Supreme Court upholding a judgment of conviction.” Defendant appealed, arguing that because the Supreme Court’s order dismissing the first appeal left untouched his conviction, the order was an “order or judgment of the Supreme Court upholding a judgment of conviction.” Concluding that the motion is timely, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for review on the merits. View "Vermont v. Stearns" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for rape, criminal threat, sexual battery, and battery, holding that, even if Defendant was correct that rape is essentially a strict liability crime, he failed to establish that this would violate his due process rights.Before the Supreme Court, Defendant argued that the Kansas rape statute - and by extension the jury instruction mirroring the statute - effectively rendered rape a strict liability crime. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, even assuming Defendant was correct that Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-5503(e) effectively rendered rape a strict liability crime in Kansas, he failed to show that this was a violation of his right to due process or outside the legislature's authority to draft criminal laws. View "State v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals determining that Wisconsin's incapacitated driver provision contained within the implied consent statute, Wis. Stat. 343.305, was unconstitutional, holding that the incapacitated driver provision is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.The court of appeals determined that the incapacitated driver provision is unconstitutional but additionally determined that the application of the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule allowed for the admission of blood test evidence that Defendant sought to suppress. The Supreme Court agreed with the judgment of the court of appeals, holding (1) the incapacitated driver provision is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied under the facts of this case, and the evidence resulting from Defendant's blood draw need not be suppressed. View "State v. Prado" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court imposing a child pornography surcharge for fourteen images of child pornography and the order denying plea withdrawal, holding that there was no error.Appellant was charged with fourteen counts of possession of child pornography. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Appellant pled guilty to six counts of possession of child pornography. At sentencing, the circuit court sentenced Appellant to a term of imprisonment and imposed a $500 child pornography surcharge, pursuant to Wis. Stat. 973.042(2), for each of the images of child pornography for which Appellant was charged. Appellant filed a postconviction motion seeking to have the circuit court allow him to withdraw his guilty plea, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in imposing the child pornography surcharge and the order that denied plea withdrawal. View "State v. Schmidt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally affirmed Defendant's drug-related convictions, second offense, holding that, consistent with this Court's opinion in State v. Wright, __ N.W.2d __ (Iowa 2021), filed today, law enforcement officers conducted an unreasonable seizure and search when they seized and searched garbage bags left out for collection without first obtaining a warrant.On appeal, Defendant argued that two sheriff's deputies violated his federal and state constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures when they seized and searched a trash bag outside Defendant's residence without first obtaining a warrant. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that remand was required in order for the district court to hold a hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress evidence without consideration of the evidence and information obtained during a trash pull used to support their warrant application. View "State v. Hahn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Appellant's delayed appeal of the postconviction court's summary judgment denial of his third application for postconviction relief, holding that this Court lacked jurisdiction over the matter.Appellant was convicted of first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery and sentenced to two twenty-five-year sentences to run concurrently. Later, Appellant filed a third application for postconviction relief. The postconviction court granted the State's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to present the Court with a basis to grant a delayed appeal six months after the deadline. View "Anderson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected Defendant's constitutional challenge to Iowa Code 321J.16 and joining the majority of courts holding that it is not an unconstitutional penalty to admit into evidence Defendant's refusal to submit to a breath test, holding that the best course is to overrule State v. Pettijohn, 899 N.W.2d 1, 38-39 (Iowa 2017).After denying Defendant's motion in liming to exclude evidence of her refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test Defendant was convicted of driving while intoxicated. On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of section 321J.16, which allows into evidence a defendant's test refusal. Specifically, Defendant argued that Pettijohn, which held that a search warrant was required for a breathalyzer test of an intoxicated boater, should be extended to drunken driving cases. The Supreme Court (1) overruled Pettijohn and held that search warrants are not required for breathalyzer tests of either boaters or drivers when law enforcement has probable cause to believe that intoxicated boating or driving has occurred; and (2) it is not an unconstitutional penalty to admit into evidence a defendant's refusal to submit to a breath test. View "State v. Kilby" on Justia Law