Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendant pleaded guilty to two child pornography offenses and was sentenced to 60 months' imprisonment and ten years' supervised release. Subsequently, Defendant moved to challenge eight of his supervised-release conditions, claiming that six of the conditions restrict his liberty more than necessary and that intervening Supreme Court precedent rendered two other conditions limiting his internet use unconstitutional. The district court denied Defendant's motion, finding that it lacked jurisdiction.The Fourth Circuit rejected Defendant's first claim pertaining to six of the challenged conditions because his arguments should have been raised at sentencing. By not doing so, he deprived the district court of jurisdiction to modify them. However, regarding Defendant's second claim, the court acknowledged that Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730 (2017), created “new, unforeseen, or changed legal . . . circumstances” relevant to Defendant's internet-use conditions. Thus, the district court had jurisdiction to consider Defendant's challenge. The court remanded the case for the district court to decide whether to modify those conditions. View "US v. Sebastian Morris" on Justia Law

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Bell was charged with distribution of a controlled substance that resulted in death, 18 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), and possession with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl, section 841(a)(1). Bell pled guilty to a lesser included, but not indicted, offense--distribution of a controlled substance. The district court accepted the guilty plea but ultimately rejected the plea agreement. The court then sentenced Bell to 30 months’ imprisonment—a sentence approximately 82 percent lower than that contemplated under the plea agreement. The government appealed, alleging a right to withdraw its consent to a plea to a lesser included, but not indicted, offense when a district court rejects a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement.The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting the government’s arguments. Rule 11 contemplates that the rejection of a plea agreement allows the defendant, not the prosecutor, to withdraw or persist in the plea. Where, as here, the defendant pleads to all charges against him and chooses not to withdraw his pleas, there are no remaining charges for which the government may proceed to trial, and a subsequent re-indictment for the greater included offense implicates double jeopardy concerns under the Fifth Amendment. View "United States v. Bell" on Justia Law

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Lewis was charged with involuntary sexual servitude of a minor (720 ILCS 5/10-9(c)(2)), traveling to meet a minor (11- 26(a)), and grooming (i11-25(a)). He asserted the defense of entrapment. Convicted, he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. The appellate court reversed the conviction, holding that defense counsel’s cumulative errors rendered the proceeding unreliable under Strickland v. Washington.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the remand for a new trial. Defense counsel was ineffective in presenting his entrapment defense where he failed to object to the circuit court’s responses to two jury notes regarding the legal definition of “predisposed,” object to the prosecutor’s closing argument mischaracterizing the entrapment defense and the parties’ relevant burdens of proof, and present defendant’s lack of a criminal record to the jury. View "People v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Defendant Roy Kuhlmann appealed the denial of his pro se motion for a new trial filed during the pendency of his appeal of his sentence and final judgment. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not have jurisdiction to consider defendant’s motion and therefore affirmed. View "Vermont v. Kuhlmann" on Justia Law

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Los Angeles County Deputy Vega questioned Tekoh at the medical center where Tekoh worked regarding the reported sexual assault of a patient. Vega did not inform Tekoh of his Miranda rights. Tekoh eventually provided a written statement and was prosecuted for unlawful sexual penetration. His written statement was admitted against him at trial. After the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, Tekoh sued Vega under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Ninth Circuit held that the use of an un-Mirandized statement against a defendant in a criminal proceeding violated the Fifth Amendment and could support a section 1983 claim.The Supreme Court reversed. A violation of the Miranda rules does not provide a basis for a section 1983 claim. In Miranda, the Court concluded that additional procedural protections were necessary to prevent the violation of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Miranda did not hold that a violation of the rules it established necessarily constitute a Fifth Amendment violation. The Miranda rules have been described as “constitutionally based” with “constitutional underpinnings,” but a Miranda violation is not the same as a violation of the Fifth Amendment right.Miranda warnings are “prophylactic,” and can require balancing competing interests. A judicially crafted prophylactic rule should apply only where its benefits outweigh its costs. While the benefits of permitting the assertion of Miranda claims under section 1983 would be slight, the costs would be substantial. View "Vega v. Tekoh" on Justia Law

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Eugene Bullen was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), second offense. He appealed to the County Court of Madison County. Following a bench trial, the trial judge found Bullen guilty and sentenced him to thirty days of imprisonment, a two year’s driver’s license suspension, an alcohol and drug assessment, six months supervised probation, eighteen months unsupervised probation, and eighty hours of community service within six months. Aggrieved by that decision, Bullen appealed to the Madison County Circuit Court. The circuit court held that the decision of the county court was supported by substantial evidence and was not manifestly wrong. Bullen then appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, arguing the trial court erred by not granting his motion to dismiss for insufficiency of the evidence. Bullen argued the State did not meet its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was intoxicated. After review, the Supreme Court held the trial judge was presented with sufficient evidence to find Bullen guilty of violating Mississippi Code Section 63-11-30(1)(a), and accordingly, affirmed. View "Bullen v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Jelani Miles was convicted of shooting into a vehicle, aggravated assault, and second-degree murder. A circuit court sentenced Miles to five years for shooting into a vehicle, twenty years with five years suspended for aggravated assault, and life for second-degree murder, with all sentences to run consecutively. Miles appealed, and the Mississippi Supreme Court deflected his appeal to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed. The Supreme Court granted Miles’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review the remedy ordered by the Court of Appeals for the trial court’s imprecise and incomplete analysis under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals applied the appropriate remedy by remanding for the trial court to conduct a hearing to complete the second and third steps of the Batson analysis for three challenged venirepersons. Therefore, the judgment of the circuit court's judgment was affirmed in part, and the case was remanded. View "Miles v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Petitioner entered a no contest plea to first-degree murder. He also admitted that he acted intentionally, deliberately, and with premeditation in committing the murder. Twelve years later, Petitioner filed a petition for resentencing under Cal. Penal Code Sec. 1170.95 and SB 1437 (allowing inmates to obtain a resentencing hearing if they were convicted of felony murder or murder under the "natural and probable consequences" theory).The trial court denied Petitioner's petition, finding that he acted with premeditation. Petitioner appealed.On appeal, the Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court's ruling. The court explained that Petitioner made a binding admission when he admitted to acting intentionally, deliberately, and with premeditation and that this admission precluded SB 1437 relief. View "P. v. Romero" on Justia Law

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In 2018, Cuenca pleaded guilty to false imprisonment of his girlfriend and to a related charge of resisting arrest resulting in serious bodily injury to an officer. The court imposed a split sentence: three years of formal probation plus county jail time that amounted to a single day, net of credit for time served. Two years later, while on probation, Cuenca was charged with assault and criminal threats arising out of a physical altercation with a male friend, A jury found Cuenca guilty of a lesser offense of assault. The court revoked probation and sentenced Cuenca to county jail for an aggregate term running a total of five years and two months for the three felony convictions in both cases. Cuenca pursued consolidated appeals.The court of appeal affirmed the convictions and sentence, rejecting an argument that Napa County’s failure to grant county jail inmates the same opportunities that state prison inmates have to earn rehabilitation program credits violated his constitutional right to equal protection. Napa County need not put forward evidence of the actual reasons justifying its policy choice; the challenged classification is presumed to be rational. View "In re Cuenca" on Justia Law

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Alcoa Officers arrested an obviously inebriated Colson following a report that, while driving her SUV, she chased her 10-year-old son in a field and then crashed in a ditch, and transported her to a hospital. Colson then withdrew her consent. to a blood draw. Colson defied repeated orders to get back into the cruiser. During the struggle, an officer's knee touched Colson’s knee, followed by an audible “pop.” Colson started screaming “my fucking knee” but continued to resist. Once Colson was in the cruiser, officers called a supervisor, then took Colson to the jail where a nurse would perform the blood draw. Colson never asked for medical care. At the jail, Colson exited the vehicle and walked inside, with no indication that she was injured. As she was frisked, Colson fell to the ground and said “my fucking knee.” Jail nurse Russell asked Colson to perform various motions with the injured leg and compared Colson’s knees, commented “I don’t see no swelling,” and then left. A week later, Colson was diagnosed with a torn ACL, a strained LCL, and a small avulsion fracture of the fibular head. Colson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, reckless endangerment, and DUI.Colson sued; only a claim for failure to provide medical care for her knee injury survived. The Sixth Circuit held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on that claim. View "Colson v. City of Alcoa" on Justia Law