by
A jury convicted defendant-appellant, Thomas Tennard, Jr., of a nonstrike felony: inflicting corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon his cohabitant girlfriend, M.L. The court found defendant had four prison priors and two prior strikes, including a 1991 conviction for forcible rape, a “super strike.” Pursuant to the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 ("Prop. 36," (Nov. 6, 2012)), defendant was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for his domestic violence conviction, even though it was neither a serious nor a violent felony. Because his prior forcible rape conviction was a “super strike,” defendant was disqualified from being sentenced to a lesser term of “twice the term otherwise provided” for a domestic violence conviction. Defendant was sentenced to a consecutive one-year term for one of his four prison priors. In this appeal, defendant claimed the court had no authority to impose the 25-year-to-life term, arguing the prosecution erroneously failed to specifically “plead and prove” that his prior forcible rape conviction was a super strike which disqualified him or rendered him ineligible to be sentenced as a second strike offender to twice the term otherwise provided for his current felony conviction pursuant to Penal Code section 667(e)(1). Defendant argued the court was only authorized to sentence him to a maximum of eight years on his current conviction. In addition to his statutory claim, defendant claimed he was deprived of his due process right to notice that the prosecution would seek an indeterminate term on his current conviction. After review, the Court of Appeal remanded this matter with directions to correct the abstract of judgment to reflect that defendant’s presentence custody credits were awarded pursuant to section 4019, not section 2933.1. In all other respects, the Court affirmed the sentence. View "California v. Tennard" on Justia Law

by
Following his convictions for drug and firearms crimes, Hill was sentenced to 276 months’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act, (ACCA) 18 U.S.C. 924(e). Hill argued that his conviction for attempted murder under Illinois law did not qualify as an ACCA “violent felony,” which is defined as a crime that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence. When a substantive offense would be a violent felony under section 924(e) and similar statutes, an attempt to commit that offense also is a violent felony. The court rejected Hill’s argument that even the completed crime of murder in Illinois is not a violent felony under the federal elements clause because is possible to commit murder in Illinois by administering poison, or exposing a baby to freezing conditions, or placing a helpless person in danger. The Supreme Court has held that “physical force” means “force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person”: the wrongdoer applies energy to bring about an effect on the would-be victim. Both murder and attempted murder in Illinois are categorically violent felonies under section 924(e). View "Hill v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Each defendant was convicted of illegally possessing a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), and is serving 180 months’ imprisonment, the statutory floor for someone convicted of that crime who has three or more earlier convictions for a violent felony or serious drug offense. The Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) includes “burglary” in the list of violent felonies but does not define “burglary.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A conviction for residential burglary in Illinois under the 1982 revision of 720 ILCS 5/19-3 is “generic burglary” under Supreme Court precedent. In Illinois “[a] person commits residential burglary who knowingly and without authority enters the dwelling place of another with the intent to commit therein a felony or theft.” Rejecting an argument that “a tent, a vehicle, or other enclosed space” is not a “structure” under Supreme Court precedent, the court concluded that the crime of residential burglary in Illinois does not cover the entry of vehicles (including boats) and tents. People live in trailers, which are “structures” as a matter of ordinary usage. Trailers used as dwellings are covered by the Illinois residential-burglary statute. View "Smith v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea for conspiracy to distribute 3,4-Methyleneioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) - known commonly as “bath salts” - and for maintaining a drug-involved residence, holding that Appellant’s arguments on appeal were unavailing. After Appellant entered his plea but before he was sentenced, the Supreme Court issued its decision in McFadden v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2298 (2015). Based on McFadden, Appellant argued that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary because the district court did not sufficiently apprise him of the necessary scienter for a conviction under the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986. Specifically, Appellant claimed he did not know MDPV was a controlled substance analogue before October 21, 2011. The First Circuit held (1) Appellant’s plea was knowing and voluntary, and Appellant raised no colorable claim of innocence as to his post-October 21, 2011 conduct, and therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea; and (2) there was no clear error in the district court’s selection of a comparator listed in the sentencing guidelines most analogous to MDPV. View "United States v. Ketchen" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Appellant’s federal convictions and resulting sentence for five counts of bank robbery. The court held that, contrary to the arguments raised by Appellant on appeal, the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s motions for (1) a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), based on Appellant’s failure to make the requisite preliminary showing, regarding warrants that were issued to install Global Positions System (GPS) tracking devices; (2) the suppression of evidence obtained from the GPS tracking devices installed pursuant to those warrants where the supporting affidavit provided probable cause for the warrants and for the installation of the GPS tracking devices; and (3) the suppression of evidence obtained as the result of Appellant’s arrest where the probable cause standard was met. View "United States v. Patterson" on Justia Law

by
Father challenged the juvenile court’s jurisdictional finding that his two children, ages 11 and 14, were at substantial risk of serious physical harm due to his use of methamphetamine and the dispositional order removing the children from his custody. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Father’s argument that, although he is a “user” of methamphetamine he is not an “abuser” of it. His and Mother’s drug use has resulted in recurrent legal problems, namely, the current and prior dependency matters. Even though he received a negative test in 2009, Father admitted he used methamphetamine while the dependency matter was ongoing. He was unable to stop despite fearing that his children would be taken away from him. Despite Father’s claim that the children are “doing well,” substantial evidence supported a finding that there was a risk of serious physical harm to the children from his methamphetamine abuse. The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that substantial danger exists to the physical health of the children and there are no reasonable means to protect them without removal from their parents’ custody; the finding comports with Welfare and Institutions Code section 361. View "In re Alexzander C." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner’s sentence of 110 years’ imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, for deliberate homicide with the use of a weapon did not violate his Eighth Amendment rights even where Petitioner committed the offense when he was seventeen years old. At issue was whether Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, __ U.S. __ (2016), apply to Montana’s discretionary sentencing scheme and whether Petitioner’s sentence qualifies as a de facto life sentence to which Miller and Montgomery apply. The Supreme Court held (1) Miller and Montgomery apply to discretionary sentences in Montana; and (2) Petitioner’s sentence, when viewed in light of Petitioner’s eligibility for day-for-day good time credit and the concurrent sentence he was serving in Washington, did not qualify as a de facto life sentence to which Miller’s substantive rule applied. View "Steilman v. Michael" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, defendant-appellant Justin Werle was indicted in Washington State for the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and possession of an unregistered firearm. Werle pled guilty to both counts. The district court found that Werle had seven prior qualifying convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act and was therefore subject to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence. This finding was based in part on the district court’s determination that the Washington riot statute was categorically a violent felony for the purposes of the ACCA. A different panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Washington riot statute was not categorically a violent felony, and the case was remanded for resentencing in light of the opinion. On remand, the district court imposed a sentence enhancement under U.S.S.G. section 2K2.1(a) due to Werle’s prior convictions for felony harassment via a threat to kill under Washington Revised Code section 9A.46.020(2)(b)(ii), finding that those convictions were crimes of violence. The district court then calculated Werle’s sentencing guideline range to be between 130 and 162 months, and concluded that a total sentence of 140 months was appropriate. Werle appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Werle" on Justia Law

by
Harrisburg Officer Simmons, conducting undercover surveillance, heard a dispatch about gunshots east of his location, describing two potential suspects in dark-colored hooded sweatshirts, walking west. Minutes later, Simmons observed two men in dark-colored hooded sweatshirts walking west. Graves had a “pronounced, labored” gait and tense arms, suggesting that “he may have concealed something heavy.” Simmons yelled “Police,” handcuffed Graves, and conducted a pat-down search, during which he felt “multiple small hard objects” in Graves’ front pockets. The objects felt like crack cocaine but were packets of Depakote and one bullet. Graves admitted that he had a loaded pistol in his boot. Graves was charged with possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, 18 U.S.C. 922(k); 924(a)(1)(B) and unlawful possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2); 924(e). After denial of his motion to suppress, Graves pled guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm. The court treated Graves as a career offender, finding that his two convictions for North Carolina common law robbery were the categorical equivalent of the enumerated crime of robbery, U.S.S.G. 2K2.1. The Third Circuit affirmed. Simmons had reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was underway and did not exceed the bounds of a valid protective frisk. Under the Guidelines, generic federal robbery is defined as in the majority of state robbery statutes, without the requirement of more than de minimis force; North Carolina common law robbery and generic federal robbery contain the same elements. View "United States v. Graves" on Justia Law

by
Defendant-appellant Richard Lincoln had his term of supervised release revoked. His revocation sentence included a new term of supervised release, which had the same special conditions as the original revoked term. Lincoln argued on appeal that the re-imposition of one condition in particular, a condition that he did not object to or appeal from when it was originally imposed, was outside the bounds of the district court’s discretion. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Eighth Circuit disagreed and affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Lincoln" on Justia Law