Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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Appellant Dakai Chavis appealed his conviction of first-degree criminal trespass. He raised one issue on appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court: the Superior Court erred during his jury trial by admitting evidence of two prior convictions under Delaware Rule of Evidence 404(b). After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court determined the evidence of Appellant's prior convictions should not have been admitted, and thus reversed the superior court order. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Chavis v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Defendant challenged his conviction for attempted murder in light of Senate Bill No. 1437 which abrogated the natural and probable consequences doctrine. Defendant argued that, even if SB 1437 did not abrogate the natural and probable consequences doctrine as to attempted murder, the trial court and prosecutor committed errors. The Court of Appeal remanded the matter to the trial court so it may exercise its discretion whether to strike any of defendant's Penal Code section 12022.53 firearm enhancements; ordered the sentencing minute order modified to reflect that defendant was awarded 116 days of conduct credit; and affirmed the judgment in all other respects. View "People v. Lima" on Justia Law

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Defendant raised several claims of error related to his conviction for voluntary manslaughter. The Court of Appeal rejected defendant's contention that the trial court prejudicially erred in failing sua sponte to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter; there was no impropriety in the trial court's inquiry and rulings; and imposition of court operations and facilities assessments, without first giving defendant an opportunity to request an ability to pay hearing to show he cannot pay them, is unconstitutional. The court remanded to give defendant an opportunity to request an ability to pay hearing. The court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "People v. Son" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) remanding Defendant's criminal case to the circuit court, holding that it was within the circuit court's discretion to dismiss the drug charge against Defendant as de minimis. Defendant was charged with criminal trespass onto state lands and promotion of a dangerous drug in the third degree. Defendant moved to dismiss his drug charge as de minimis pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 702-236. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that attendant circumstances weighed in favor of dismissal. In addition, the circuit court determined that criminal trespass onto state lands was not a property crime and accordingly did not constitute a "harm" or "evil" with which the drug statute was concerned. The ICA remanded the case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) it was within he circuit court's discretion to dismiss the charge against Defendant as de minimis; (2) while there were errors of fact in the circuit court's order dismissing the charge, those errors were harmless; and (3) while criminal trespass onto state lands is a property crime, it is not the type of property crime that motivated the legislature to criminalize possession of any amount of a dangerous drug. View "State v. Enos" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The panel held that where, as here, law enforcement officers are asked to assist in the execution of an administrative warrant authorizing the inspection of a private residence, they violate the Fourth Amendment when their "primary purpose" in executing the warrant is to gather evidence in support of a criminal investigation rather than to assist the inspectors. The panel need not address defendant's argument that the warrant itself was invalid under state law nor whether LASD exceeded the scope of the warrant. The panel only held that the LASD's execution was unreasonable and thus the district court properly granted defendant's motion to suppress. View "United States v. Grey" on Justia Law

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Perez-Rodriguez, a citizen of Mexico, was ordered removed in June 2016. He reentered the country days later and was arrested and convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1546 for reentry after deportation and false personation in immigration matters. He was sentenced to time served (140 days) and removed again in December 2016. In June 2018, Perez-Rodriguez was arrested in Ohio on a failure to appear warrant for child endangering. He pled guilty to illegal reentry, Perez-Rodriguez had one prior conviction in 2015 for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (DUI), for which he received probation. Based on this criminal history, his prior count of reentry, and his acceptance of responsibility, Pretrial Services recommended a Guidelines range of 8-14 months' imprisonment. The district court entered a sentence of 24 months, noting Perez-Rodriguez’s DUI conviction, that he “apparently violated his probation,” and the need to deter individuals who demonstrate “a pattern of continuing to violate our laws.” The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded for resentencing, finding Perez-Rodriguez’s sentence substantively unreasonable, Perez-Rodriguez had one DUI conviction before his first deportation, and he had not been convicted of anything that would endanger the public since that conviction. Perez-Rodriguez does not exhibit an extensive “pattern” of deportation and reentry nor do his past actions present that ongoing risk of harm to the public. View "United States v. Perez-Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Portanova admitted to downloading child pornography onto his cell phone, on which investigators found 63 videos depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Portanova subsequently pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1), which carries a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence if that person “has a prior conviction . . . under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward” or “relating to . . . the production, possession, receipt, mailing, sale, distribution, shipment, or transportation of child pornography.” Portanova had previously been convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography under Pennsylvania law. The court concluded that his state conviction triggered section 2252(b)(1)'s mandatory minimum enhancement. The Third Circuit affirmed, agreeing that his conviction triggered the mandatory minimum provision. Under the Third Circuit’s “looser categorical approach,” section 2252(b)(1)’s “relating to” language does not require an exact match between the state and federal elements of conviction, and that provision is not unconstitutionally vague. View "United States v. Portanova" on Justia Law

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In 2018, Defendant Frank Trujillo pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The district court sentenced him to a term of 120 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Defendant appealed both his conviction and sentence. With respect to his conviction, Defendant argued his guilty plea was constitutionally invalid because he was not advised of the true nature of his charge. As to his sentence, Defendant argued the district court plainly erred by applying U.S.S.G. section 2K2.1(a)(1) to calculate his base offense level because he did not commit the instant offense “subsequent to” sustaining at least two felony convictions for crimes of violence. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction but remanded for resentencing only. Defendant’s advisory guideline range was erroneously calculated at 140 to 175 months’ imprisonment. "It is reasonably probable that the district court’s error caused Defendant to receive a higher sentence, and 'we can think of few things that affect . . . the public's perception of the fairness and integrity of the judicial process more than a reasonable probability an individual will linger longer in prison than the law demands only because of an obvious judicial mistake.'” View "United States v. Trujillo" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision ordering petitioner removed based on his 2016 Connecticut state conviction for carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes 29-35(a). The court held that Section 29-35(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes is not a categorical match for the generic federal firearms offense, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C). The court held that the Connecticut statute criminalizes conduct involving "antique firearms" that the INA firearms offense definition does not, precluding petitioner's removal on the basis of the state conviction. The court also held that, under Hylton v. Sessions, 897 F.3d 58 (2d Cir. 2018), the realistic probability test has no bearing here, where the text of the state statute gives it a broader reach than the federal definition. Accordingly, the court vacated the order of removal and remanded with directions to terminate the removal proceedings. View "Williams v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery. The court found no plain error with respect to the plea agreement, but held that the limited facts relied upon by the district court were insufficient to support application of a three-level enhancement for possession of a dangerous weapon, USSG 2B3.1(b)(2)(E), and a two-level enhancement for physical restraint, USSG 2B3.1(b)(4)(B), in calculating defendant's Sentencing Guidelines range. View "United States v. Oneal" on Justia Law