Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendant, who was 18 years old at the time of the attempted murders and 21 years old when he committed murder, seeks remand of his cause for a hearing under People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261, because his counsel stipulated, without his consent, to limit information regarding youth-related mitigating factors to a written submission following the sentencing hearing. The Court of Appeal held that counsel's stipulation to file the Franklin package after the sentencing hearing and without presentation of live testimony did not violate defendant's constitutional rights. The court also held that defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim should be presented in a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment, ordering a correction on the abstract of judgment to reflect the sentence. View "People v. Sepulveda" on Justia Law

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On September 20, 2010, at age of 13 appellant, H.R., was adjudicated delinquent for indecent assault of a complainant less than 13 years of age. Appellant was placed on official probation and, pursuant to Section 6352 of the Juvenile Act, was ordered to undergo inpatient treatment at a sex offender residential treatment facility. Appellant remained in treatment when he turned 20 in February 2017 and he was assessed pursuant to Section 6352, the results of which found that involuntary treatment at a sex offender residential treatment facility pursuant to the Court-Ordered Involuntary Treatment of Certain Sexually Violent Persons Statute (Act 21) was still necessary. On January 4, 2018, following a hearing, a trial court denied appellant's motion to dismiss and granted the petition for involuntary treatment, determining appellant was an sexually violent delinquent child (SVDC) and committing him to one year of mental health treatment. On appeal, appeal, appellant argued: (1) Act 21 was punitive in nature, and this its procedure for determining whether an individual was an SVDC was unconstitutional; and (2) retroactive application of amendments to Act 21 made effective in 2011, was also unconstitutional. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined the superior court correctly determined the relevant provisions of Act 21 were not punitive, were constitutional, thus, affirming the trial court's order. View "In re: H.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for failure to register as a predatory offender, holding that Defendant's 1992 California conviction for sexual battery did not require him to register as a predatory offender under Minn. Stat. 234.166, subd. 1b(b). When Defendant was incarcerated in Minnesota, prison officials informed him that he was required to register as a predatory offender because of his 1992 California conviction. Because Defendant did not register in the fall of 2016 the State charged him with failing to register as a predatory offender. The district court found Defendant guilty. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's California criminal sexual battery conviction was not an offense requiring registration in Minnesota because California's criminal sexual battery could be proven without proving a violation of Minnesota's fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion. View "State v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of felony deprivation of parenting rights in violation of Minn. Stat. 609.26, subd. 1(3) on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient because the circumstances proved supported a reasonable inference that Defendant did not have a subject intent to substantially deprive her child's father of parenting time, holding that the court of appeals erred when it concluded that the State presented insufficient evidence to support the conviction. Implicit in the court of appeals' analysis was an assumption that section 609.26, subd. 1(3) required the State to prove that Defendant had the subjective intent substantially to deprive the father of his parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 609.26, subd. 1(3) establishes an objective standard that focuses on the nature of the defendant's action; and (2) the only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the circumstances proved here was that Defendant's actions, viewed objectively, manifested an intent substantially to deprive the child's father of court-ordered parenting time. View "State v. Culver" on Justia Law

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Defendants were convicted of numerous crimes related to a 2007 robbery of a casino and a conspiracy to rob the casino again a year later. After defendants' convictions were conditionally reversed in a prior appeal, the prosecution moved to strike defendants' pleas of once in jeopardy. The trial court granted the motion and reinstated the prior judgments. The Court of Appeal held that the motion to strike defendants' double jeopardy plea was properly granted; Defendants Williams, Joseph, and Lewis have not shown prejudicial Sanchez error; and the court accepted the jury's concession that the 10 year personal firearm enhancement imposed on count 28 must be stricken as to Williams. The court remanded for the trial court to apply newly enacted legislation, Senate Bills 620 and 1393, to its sentencing decisions. View "People v. Bell" on Justia Law

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State Trooper King saw Lott’s vehicle slow down on I-75 as it came into view; Lott was driving with “arms locked out.” King interpreted that as a sign of nervousness. King followed Lott for three-fourths of a mile in the left lane while vehicles passed on the right, then pulled Lott over. King stated that he was not going to issue a citation but ran Lott’s driver’s license for outstanding warrants and flagged down Trooper Reams, who had a K-9 in tow. Based on Lott’s nervousness and proximity to the roadway, King asked him to step out of the vehicle. King did not check the warrant search. Lott refused King’s request for consent to search his vehicle. King stated that “we’re going to utilize the K-9.” According to King, Lott responded, “I have a little bit of marijuana in the console.” The K-9 alerted after a “free air sniff.” King located marijuana in the console, then searched the vehicle. In the trunk, King found heroin, other drugs, and money. The Troopers estimated that five-10 minutes elapsed between the stop and the K-9 sniff. Lott was charged under 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress. The traffic stop was initiated constitutionally and was not impermissibly extended. Lott did not dispute that he was impeding traffic; the marijuana admission occurred within the temporal scope of the tasks incident to the traffic stop. View "United States v. Lott" on Justia Law

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Detective Shockley, investigating whether methamphetamine was being sold at Alexander's mother's house, learned that Alexander’s driver’s license was suspended. Shockley saw Alexander drive away, stopped him and saw a bank deposit bag on the passenger seat and a safe in the backseat. Shockley arrested Alexander for driving on a suspended license and conducted a search, finding a baggie with methamphetamine residue, drug paraphernalia, and $11,000 in cash. Shockley found 35 grams of methamphetamine in Alexander’s waistband. The SUV was towed. The next day, Shockley obtained a warrant for the safe and discovered a loaded pistol. Days later, Shockley saw Alexander leave the house in a Lincoln and called another officer, who stopped him. Shockley arrested Alexander. After Alexander said, “I don’t care,” Shockley searched the vehicle, and found 113 grams of methamphetamine. Charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, and possession of a firearm as a felon, Alexander unsuccessfully moved to suppress both stops. Classified as a career offender, he was sentenced to 216 months’ incarceration. The Sixth Circuit upheld the denial of the motion to suppress. The inventory search exception did not apply absent evidence of standardized procedures but the inevitable-discovery doctrine salvaged the first search. Alexander consented to the second search. The court vacated the sentence; the government conceded that the case should be remanded for resentencing without the career-offender enhancement. View "United States v. Alexander" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit vacated defendant's 336 month sentence for producing child pornography. The court held that the district court failed to give defendant a full credit for the time served on related state charges. The court remanded for the district court to clarify its reasoning as to how exactly it applied USSG 5G1.3 to arrive at defendant's final sentence. Defendant's remaining challenges to his sentence lacked merit; there was no error in imposing a sentencing enhancement for engaging in a pattern of sexual exploitation under USSG 4B1.5(b); the district court considered defendant's mitigating factors under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a); and addressing the reasonableness of defendant's sentence would be premature in light of the remand. View "United States v. Winnick" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court for further consideration in light of Bucklew v. Precythe, 139 S. Ct. 1112 (2019), the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the State's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The court held that to prove a claim under the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must prove two elements: first, that the State's method of execution presents a risk that is sure or very likely to cause serious illness or needless suffering, and give rise to sufficiently imminent dangers and, second, a feasible and readily implemented alternative method of execution that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain and that the state has refused to adopt without a legitimate penological reason. Plaintiff filed suit against state officials, challenging the constitutionality of Missouri's method of execution as it applied to him. In this case, plaintiff failed to meet the second element where his claim fell squarely within the alternative holding of Bucklew that the Eighth Amendment does not require a State to adopt an untried and untested method of execution. View "Johnson v. Precythe" on Justia Law

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Appellant, Lydia Metcalf, was convicted as a party of second-degree felony sexualassault based on her husband's anal rape of their then 16-year-old daughter. Metcalf was sentenced to three years in prison, but no fine. On appeal, she argued the evidence presented at trial was legally insufficient to convict because it did not show she had intent to promote or assist her husband's sexual assault. The court of appeals agreed, and rendered an acquittal. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the State's petition for review, but the acquittal was affirmed. "Under the hypothetically correct jury charge, the State had to prove that Metcalf, at the time of the offense, intended to promote or assist the commission of the anal penetration alleged in the indictment. But because the evidence does not show that it was Metcalf’s conscious objective or desire for Allen to sexually assault Amber, the evidence is insufficient to show that she intended to promote or assist commission of that offense." View "Metcalf v. Texas" on Justia Law