Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming Defendant's conviction of misdemeanor driving under the influence (DUI), holding that Defendant's allegations of error were without merit. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in affirming the county court's admission of evidence offered at trial that was not disclosed to him and erred in sentencing him because the prior conviction the court relied upon for a second offense was not disclosed to Defendant prior to sentencing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's arguments regarding discovery violations were rejected due to Defendant's failure to seek a continuance, and there was no prejudice owing to any belated disclosures on the State's part. View "State v. Hatfield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, holding that there was no merit to Defendant's assignments of error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in overruling Defendant's motion to suppress the search of his cell phone; (2) the district court did not err in admitting eight photographic exhibits over Defendant's objections and in concluding that multiple photographs of the same wounds on the victim were not unfairly prejudicial; and (3) eight of Defendant's eighteen claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were either without merit or not alleged with sufficient particularity, and the Court was unable to resolve Defendant's remaining claims of ineffective assistance. View "State v. Stelly" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the magistrate's dismissal of three pending misdemeanor charges against Defendant based on the legal proposition that Iowa courts lack jurisdiction over crimes committed on the Meskwaki Settlement, holding that the State may assert jurisdiction involving crimes committed on tribal lands by non-Indians involving either victimless crimes or non-Indian victims. An officer of the Meskwaki Nation Police Department filed two cases in district court alleging that Defendant committed the misdemeanor crimes of trespass, possession of drug paraphernalia, and violation of a no-contact order while on the Meskwaki Settlement. The magistrate dismissed the charges, concluding that recent federal legislation removed state jurisdiction for crimes committed on the Settlement. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of the charges and vacated the remaining portions of the district court's order, holding that the recent legislation left undisturbed state court criminal jurisdiction involving criminal acts involving non-Indians. View "State v. Stanton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's sentence in connection with her Alford plea to four counts of child endangerment entered pursuant to a plea agreement, holding that the State breached the plea agreement with Defendant and that Defendant's original counsel was ineffective for failing to object. On appeal, Defendant argued that, pursuant to the plea agreement between the parties, the State was obligated to jointly recommend a deferred judgment. Instead, at the sentencing hearing, the State recommended, and the court imposed, a two-year suspended prison sentence without objection from defense counsel. The court of appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence. Thereafter, amendments to Iowa Code 814.6 and 814.7, enacted in Senate File 589, were signed into law and became effective. The State argued before the Supreme Court that Senate File 589 foreclosed relief in this appeal. The Supreme Court held (1) sections 814.6 and 814.7, as amended, do not apply to a direct appeal from a judgment and sentence entered before July 1, 2019; and (2) the State breached the plea agreement and Defendant's counsel was ineffective. The Supreme Court remanded the case for the State's specific performance of the plea agreement and resentencing by a different judge. View "State v. Macke" on Justia Law

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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