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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress and held that defendant was not in custody for purposes of Miranda. Considering all the circumstances of the interview and viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the court held that defendant was not "in custody," because a reasonable inmate in defendant's position would not expect to be required to stay in the office after the termination of the interview. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to instruct the jury on a statute of limitations defense where there was no evidence that immigration authorities had actual or constructive knowledge of defendant's presence in the United States. Finally, the court held that defendant's challenge to jury selection was unavailing and defendant failed to show a clear or obvious Confrontation Clause error. View "United States v. Arellano-Banuelos" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed by the district court in connection with Defendant's conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. The district court sentenced Defendant to an incarcerate sentence of sixty months, nineteen months above the upper end of the advisory guidelines sentencing range. On appeal, Defendant argued that the sentence (1) was procedurally unreasonable because the district court failed to consider all of the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors, and (2) was substantively unreasonable because it was too harsh. The First Circuit court affirmed, holding (1) there was no clear or obvious error in the sentencing court's explication of the factors that it considered; and (2) Defendant failed to show that the sentencing court abused its discretion in imposing an upwardly variant sentence. View "United States v. Mendez-Baez" on Justia Law

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Martov participated in a wire fraud scheme in which he collected fraudulently obtained debit card numbers and personal identification numbers and then distributed them to others who used the information to make cash withdrawals from ATMs. The conduct cost the victims approximately $1.2 million. When he was arrested, the government seized Martov’s watch, $4,035 in cash, a car, and nine firearms. In exchange for Martov’s guilty plea under 18 U.S.C. 1343, the government dropped other charges and agreed not to pursue criminal forfeiture. The government initiated administrative forfeiture proceedings, 18 U.S.C. 983, by sending notice to Martov and his attorney. Martov responded to the notice by filing claims for the car and guns. The government denied both claims and declared the property forfeited. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief while noting “reservations with the procedural path that the government took in executing the forfeiture.” The government had missed certain statutory deadlines. Martov, who only argued that the seizure was improper and that the forfeiture action violated his plea agreement, failed to advance any meritorious arguments. View "Martov v. United States" on Justia Law

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Frederico Alvarado Hinojos, a citizen of Mexico, immigrated to the United States in 1991 with his wife and two daughters. Sixteen years later, in 2007, he pled guilty to felony menacing with a deadly weapon and misdemeanor third-degree assault. Alvarado Hinojos successfully completed both his deferred judgment and his probation sentence. Therefore, in 2009, the trial court dismissed the guilty plea to the felony count and terminated the probation sentence on the misdemeanor count. In July 2015, Alvarado Hinojos filed a motion for postconviction relief in which he collaterally attacked his third-degree assault conviction under Crim. P. 35(c). The question Alvarado Hinojos' appeal raised for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether, as a noncitizen, Alvarado Hinojos was entitled to a hearing on the timeliness of his Crim. P. 35(c) postconviction motion when he invoked the justifiable excuse or excusable neglect exception and alleged that plea counsel provided him no advice regarding the immigration consequences of his plea. The Supreme Court held that when the plea agreement or the plea hearing transcript is submitted, the trial court should consider it in conjunction with the allegations advanced. In this case, the Court held Alvarado Hinojos was not entitled to a hearing. The factual allegations in his motion (which were assumed to be true), when considered in conjunction with the plea agreement, were insufficient to establish justifiable excuse or excusable neglect for failing to collaterally attack the validity of his misdemeanor conviction within the applicable eighteen-month limitations period. The immigration advisement contained in the plea agreement, at a minimum, gave Alvarado Hinojos reason to question the accuracy of his plea counsel’s advice regarding the immigration consequences of the plea. "Thus, even taking at face value the allegations in his motion, he was on notice at the time of his plea that he needed to diligently investigate his counsel’s advice and, if appropriate, file a timely motion challenging the validity of his conviction." View "People v. Alvarado Hinojos" on Justia Law

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Israel Chavez-Torres was born in Mexico who immigrated to the United States with his mother and three sisters in 1991 when he was thirteen years old. In August 1996, while in high school, Chavez-Torres pled guilty to first-degree felony criminal trespass. He received probation, which he completed successfully. In 2013, seventeen years after his conviction, the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) notified Chavez-Torres that it had initiated removal proceedings against him based on his conviction. Chavez-Torres promptly consulted an immigration attorney who advised him that his conviction made him ineligible for cancellation of removal proceedings. The immigration attorney thus opined that plea counsel may have provided Chavez-Torres ineffective assistance by failing to provide an advisement about the immigration consequences of the plea. The question Chavez-Torres' appeal raised for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether, as a noncitizen, Chavez-Torres was entitled to a hearing on the timeliness of his Crim. P. 35(c) postconviction motion when he invoked the justifiable excuse or excusable neglect exception and alleged that plea counsel provided him no advice regarding the immigration consequences of his plea. The Supreme Court held that when the plea agreement or the plea hearing transcript is submitted, the trial court should consider it in conjunction with the allegations advanced. In this case, Chavez-Torres was entitled to a hearing. "Chavez-Torres alleged that he had no reason to question or investigate his plea counsel’s failure to advise him regarding the immigration consequences of his plea. Further, although he was not required to do so, Chavez-Torres submitted the plea agreement and the plea hearing transcript with his motion, and neither references the immigration consequences of his plea." View "Colorado v. Chavez-Torres" on Justia Law

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William Kutzly was charged with several crimes involving sexual assault on a child. During his trial, the court qualified a social worker as an expert witness in child sexual assault and victim dynamics; the witness then testified. Prior to trial, Kutzly moved the trial court to hold a Shreck hearing to determine the reliability of the social worker’s proposed testimony. The trial court held a hearing on that motion, determined that the testimony was reliable, and ultimately denied the motion to hold a full evidentiary Shreck hearing on that issue. Kutzly argued on appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court that this was error. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court made specific findings of reliability such that its decision not to hold a Shreck hearing was not an abuse of discretion. The Court therefore affirmed the court of appeals’ decision. View "Kutzly v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a district court order partially granting defendant-appellee Keith Haack’s motion and suppressing evidence acquired after officers made a warrantless entry into his residence. The district court found that the officers, who were investigating defendant for driving under the influence, had unlawfully followed the defendant into his home and, as a result, all relevant evidence they acquired either inside the home or after the defendant and officers went back outside should have been suppressed. The court expressly found that defendant was not in custody for purposes of Miranda warnings until he was ultimately arrested outside the home and that the results of the defendant’s field sobriety tests, including a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and subsequent blood test, both of which were conducted after leaving the residence, would have been admissible but for the earlier constitutional violation. The court did not, however, offer any rationale for suppression of these test results beyond the fact that they followed in time the unlawful entry. In reversing the district court's order, the Colorado Supreme Court determined the district court failed to address the question of whether the evidence suppressed was independent of an earlier unlawful entry; the portion of the district court order suppressing this evidence was not adequately supported by its findings and is therefore vacated. The case was remanded with directions to determine whether the evidence acquired after leaving the defendant’s home was in fact derivative of the unlawful entry at all and if so whether the subsequent searches in which that evidence was discovered were genuinely independent sources of that evidence. View "Colorado v. Haack" on Justia Law

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In this case, a juvenile, "T.B." texted a picture of his erect penis to two underage girls and then repeatedly asked the girls to text him naked pictures of themselves. After initially resisting, both girls eventually complied and texted nude selfies to the juvenile. T.B. kept these sexts on his cell phone, where they were discovered by law enforcement in 2013. The question this case presented was whether T.B. could be adjudicated delinquent for sexual exploitation of a child under section 18-6-403(3), C.R.S. (2018), for possessing these images. At a bench trial, T.B. argued that the prosecution failed to prove that he knowingly possessed erotic nudity for the purpose of the overt sexual gratification of a “person involved.” The court rejected this argument and adjudicated T.B. delinquent on both counts. A split court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted review to determine the proper standard of review for an unpreserved sufficiency of the evidence claim and to review whether the court of appeals misconstrued section 18-6-403(3)(b.5) in holding the evidence was sufficient to support T.B.’s adjudication for sexual exploitation of a child. The Court was satisfied that the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court's conclusion that the images constituted “erotic nudity” (and therefore “sexually exploitative material”) for purposes of the sexual exploitation of a child statute. View "Colorado in the Interest of T.B." on Justia Law

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Michigan prisons allow Wiccan inmates to worship as a group for eight major holidays (Sabbats). Wiccans celebrate other holidays (Esbats) 12-13 times a year. Wiccans are not permitted to congregate on Esbats and permits Wiccan inmates to use candles and incense only in the prison’s chapel. Cavin asked the Department of Corrections to allow him and other Wiccans to celebrate Esbats together. Officials denied his request. He filed suit, requesting injunctive relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1(a), and sought damages. At summary judgment, the court ruled that Eleventh Amendment immunity barred the damages claims against the Department of Corrections; that Chaplain Leach deserved qualified immunity; and that only Cavin’s RLUIPA claim for religious accommodation could proceed. After a bench trial, the court rejected Cavin’s RLUIPA claim for injunctive relief, concluding that the prison’s regulations implicate but do not burden Cavin’s exercise of religion. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the grant of qualified immunity and the denial of appointed counsel but vacated with respect to injunctive relief under RLUIPA, remanding for a determination of whether the Department’s policy survives scrutiny under RLUIPA. A policy substantially burdens religious exercise when it bars an inmate from worshipping with others and from using ritualistic items. View "Cavin v. Michigan Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor. Because defendant did not object to the fact of the tribal convictions or of any tribal arrests, or to the factual descriptions of the convictions and arrests as contained in the PSR, the court reviewed his claim for plain error. The court held that the sentence was not procedurally unreasonable and the district court did not plainly err by relying on any information that was not otherwise available to the court or to the parties. The court also held that the sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing an upward variance of 23 months. In this case, the district court did not give significant weight to the disparity between defendant's state and federal sentences, and properly relied on the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. View "United States v. Cloud" on Justia Law