Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendant argued that the district court improperly considered as an Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) predicate offense his prior conviction for drug trafficking under Florida Statutes Section 893.135(1)(b)1. Defendant contended that the particular Florida statute did not constitute a serious drug offense under the ACCA because the elements of that statute did not satisfy the requirements of the ACCA.The Eleventh Circuit certified the question raised by Defendant’s challenge to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court answered the court’s certified question, holding that, for purposes of Florida’s drug trafficking statute, “a completed purchase requires proof that the defendant both (1) gave consideration for and (2) obtained control of a trafficking quantity of illegal drugs,” and further that “the requisite control [consists] of the same range of conduct that qualifies as constructive possession under federal law.” In light of this response, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence. View "USA v. Michael Anthony Conage" on Justia Law

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The People of the State of California (People), appealed the denial of the motion for victim restitution, i.e., attorney fees and costs after Respondent was convicted by plea of felony driving with a .08 blood alcohol level or higher causing bodily injury. the denial of the motion for victim restitution, i.e., attorney fees and costs, after Respondent was convicted by plea of felony driving with a .08 blood alcohol level or higher causing bodily injury release of liability signed by the victim in the civil case discharged respondent’s obligation to pay restitution in the criminal case.The Second Appellate District agreed with the People and reversed. Here, the People presented evidence that the injured driver received a civil settlement of $235,000. Of the settlement, $61,574.44 was paid to the driver’s attorney as a contingency fee of 25 percent plus costs. Respondent did not present any witnesses or evidence in opposition. Instead, he argued the signed releases by the victims meant they “ha[d] received full and complete compensation,” and the contingency fee was “not a true amount of attorney’s fees.” However, “[a] crime victim who seeks redress for his injuries in a civil suit can expect to pay counsel with a contingency fee.” Because the People established that the driver paid her attorney a contingency fee of 25 percent, the burden shifted to Respondent to refute this showing. Respondent contends the trial court’s denial of fees was an “implied finding”. But an implied finding of fact must be supported by substantial evidence. View "P. v. Nonaka" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress evidence obtained by federal agents after a hotel manager opened the door to a room containing Defendant. Defendant moved to suppress the fruits of the hotel-room search, arguing that the hotel manager was acting as a Government agent and that the Government lacked a warrant that authorized the search. The district court held a suppression hearing and denied the motion. Defendant thereafter pleaded guilty to illegal reentry under 8 U.S.C. Section 1326, reserving his right to challenge the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court properly found that this search was a private search. As private searches do not implicate the Fourth Amendment, the district court correctly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained from the search in question.   The court explained that the district court correctly found that the Government did not affirmatively encourage the hotel manager to open the door and thus did not acquiesce to the manager’s search. These findings are supported by the record and, given that the district court was in the best position to evaluate the credibility and context of witness statements, are not clearly erroneous. View "USA v. Cordova-Espinoza" on Justia Law

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Guaranteed was a “reverse distributor,” paid by healthcare providers to return unused or expired pharmaceutical drugs to the drug manufacturers, for refunds for the healthcare-provider clients. Refunds were wired directly to Guaranteed’s general operating account; the company then issued refund checks to the relevant clients, less a service fee. In 2001, the Department of Defense contracted with Guaranteed. The government began investigating Guaranteed after the District of Columbia noticed that it did not receive the full refund on a return of some of its pharmaceuticals. The investigation uncovered a series of schemes that Guaranteed used to defraud its clients.Guaranteed, its CEO, and its CFO, were convicted of multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and theft of government property. In addition to prison sentences, the court imposed more than $100 million in restitution and forfeitures. The Third Circuit reversed the money laundering convictions and remanded for resentencing. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged complex financial transactions—after the initial receipt of “commingled” fraudulent and lawfully obtained funds—were designed for "concealment money laundering." The court otherwise affirmed, rejecting challenges to a search warrant, the sufficiency of the evidence, the jury instructions, and the court’s refusal to permit proposed expert testimony. View "United States v. Fallon" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a family division’s order granting juvenile E.S.’s motion to suppress a statement given to law enforcement in this delinquency proceeding. In July 2021, the state’s attorney filed a delinquency petition alleging E.S. engaged in behavior designated as the crime of lewd or lascivious conduct with a child. E.S. subsequently moved to suppress statements he made during an interview with law enforcement, arguing that he was in custody during the interview and therefore should have been provided with Miranda warnings and the ability to consult with an independent interested adult. The State opposed the motion. The family division granted E.S.’s motion, concluding that he was in custody during the interview because a reasonable juvenile in his circumstances would not have felt free to terminate the interview and leave. The State argued on appeal of the suppression motion that the family court used the wrong standard to determine whether E.S. was in custody during the interview. E.S. argued 13 V.S.A. § 7403(c) did not provide a right for the State to appeal an order granting a motion to suppress in a juvenile delinquency proceeding. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with E.S. and dismissed this appeal. View "In re E.S., Juvenile" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the order of the county court denying Appellant's handgun appeal, holding that the lower courts did not err in denying the appeal.The Sarpy County sheriff's office denied Appellant's application for a handgun certificate pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 69-2404 and 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9), determining that Appellant's previous conviction for third degree assault met the criteria for domestic violence under federal law. Appellant appealed, arguing that he had never been convicted of a crime of domestic violence. The county court denied the appeal, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion. View "Scalise v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Baby Boy Moore appealed his conviction of aggravated assault, arguing both that the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence and that the prosecutor erred by using Moore’s past convictions as impeachment evidence. Because Moore’s claims lacked merit, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence. View "Baby Boy Moore a/k/a Lavell v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant Noy Estul Boukes guilty of the first degree murder of victim 1, threatening victim 2, and falsely imprisoning victim 2. The jury also found true allegations that defendant intentionally murdered victim 1 while he was an active member of a criminal street gang, and that he personally discharged a firearm during the commission of the murder, proximately causing great bodily injury or death. In a separate proceeding thereafter, defendant admitted he had suffered three prior prison terms and two prior strike convictions. The trial court sentenced defendant to state prison for life without the possibility of parole plus 78 years to life. On appeal of the judgment and sentence, the Court of Appeal remanded the matter to the trial court for resentencing. The trial court then struck the prior prison term enhancements and imposed, but struck punishment on the gang enhancements attached to counts 2 and 3. Appealing again, defendant contended that pursuant to Assembly Bill No. 333 (2021- 2022 Reg. Sess.), the judgments of conviction on counts 1 through 3, and the true findings on all the gang-related allegations, including the special circumstance finding, had to be reversed: “the prosecution did not present evidence that the predicate offenses commonly benefitted a criminal street gang in a manner that was more than reputational” and that “the prosecution relied, in part, on the reputational benefit of the shooting in this case to” defendant’s gang. To this point, Court of Appeal concurred and reversed the gang enhancements and special circumstance finding; the Court remanded the matter to give the State the opportunity to retry the issue relating to gang activity. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed. View "California v. Boukes" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to violating the Travel Act by facilitating prostitution, served her fifteen-month prison sentence, and began a three-year period of supervised release in July 2020. In the following eighteen months, she violated supervised release conditions at least twenty-four times. The district court revoked supervised release and imposed an 18-month sentence, with 18 months of supervised release to follow. Defendant appealed, arguing that varying upward to a sentence greater than the 6-12 month advisory guidelines range is substantively unreasonable because a lesser sentence would have been sufficient.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that on the sentencing record, the contention the district court committed a clear error of judgment in weighing the Section 3553(a) factors by imposing a sentence outside the advisory guidelines range is without merit. The court wrote it has repeatedly held that it is not unreasonable for a sentencing court to demonstrate with an upward variance that contemptuous disregard for our laws can have serious consequences.   Further, here, the district court explained it was varying upward to promote Defendant’s respect for the law and to protect the public from further crimes, not to enable treatment or promote rehabilitation. View "United States v. Paisley Michels" on Justia Law

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This appeal presented the issue of whether Section 7403(e) of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act (“MHPA”), 50 P.S. § 7403(e), authorized a trial court to dismiss criminal charges filed against a defendant who was incompetent, and would likely remain so, under circumstances where the passage of time and its effect upon the criminal proceedings render it unjust to resume the prosecution. Following established intermediate appellate court precedent, the Superior Court held that Section 7403(e) authorized dismissal of criminal charges only under circumstances where the defendant regained his competence, and not where he remained incompetent. Appellant Jquan Humphrey challenged this interpretation. After its review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the Superior Court’s interpretation of Section 7403(e) and held that the MHPA did not limit the trial court’s authority to dismiss criminal charges to circumstances where the defendant regained his competency. "Instead, Section 7403(e) authorizes a trial court to dismiss criminal charges filed against an incompetent defendant where the court finds that it would be unjust to resume the prosecution due to the passage of time and its effect upon the criminal proceeding." Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the Superior Court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pennsylvania v. Humphrey" on Justia Law