Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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After defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, the Supreme Court decided Rehaif v. United States, which established for the first time that the government must prove that the person charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm "knew he had the relevant status when he possessed" the firearm. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court's error in accepting defendant's guilty plea did not affect his substantial rights. In this case, defendant's state court documents, and especially his behavior at the time of his arrest, established that defendant had knowledge of his status as a convicted felon when he possessed the firearm. Therefore, the court concluded that there is no reasonable probability that defendant would have refused to enter the plea absent the district court's error. View "United States v. Brandon" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences for charges related to their involvement in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendants' convictions; venue in the Eastern District was proper; defendants have not offered any evidence to get past the presumption of jury impartiality; any error the district court committed by admitting the government's experts' testimony was harmless; and any error in giving the deliberate ignorance jury instruction was harmless. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in calculating the drug quantity involved in the conspiracy; defendants' base offense level of 36 was appropriate under either Guidelines Manual; and the district court did not clearly err in finding that the firearm enhancement applied. View "United States v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The court rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred by accepting a constitutionally inadequate factual resume as foreclosed by precedent. The court also held that there was no error in the district court's application of a guideline enhancement for obstruction of justice based on its finding that defendant gave false testimony. View "United States v. Perryman" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Shaun Smith filed, as an indigent defendant representing himself in propria persona (pro. per.) in a pending criminal action, a petition for writ of mandate, prohibition, or other appropriate relief against respondent Sacramento County Superior Court, challenging respondent’s policies and procedures pertaining to pro. per. defendants then in effect. Central to petitioner’s grievance were the duties the court assigned to the pro. per. coordinator -- an individual hired and supervised by, and subject to the control and direction of, Sacramento County (the county). The court revised its policies and procedures pertaining to pro. per. defendants in response to a Court of Appeal order to show cause. The revisions did not quell petitioner’s concerns pertaining to the pro. per. coordinator’s role in the disposition of investigative and ancillary defense services requests and the review of subpoenas. Considering the nature of those duties delegated to the pro. per. coordinator, as provided in respondent’s revised policies and procedures, the Court of Appeal concluded respondent impermissibly delegated its judicial powers in contravention of the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution. The Court of Appeal thus issued a writ of mandate directing the respondent-trial-court to cease and desist from applying and implementing the pertinent portions of its revised pro. per. policies and procedures, and directed the trial court to revise those policies and procedures in a manner consistent with the Court of Appeal's opinion in this case. View "Smith v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Raymundo M. was charged in juvenile court with assault with a deadly weapon, making a criminal threat, and brandishing a weapon after he raised a switchblade-like knife head-high and chased another minor while orally threatening him. The juvenile court found the charges and certain of the enhancement allegations true, declared Raymundo a ward of the court, and placed him with his mother under the supervision of the probation department. On appeal, Raymundo contended: (1) insufficient evidence supported the true finding on the assault count because he never got within striking distance of the victim or made stabbing or slashing motions with the knife; (2) the juvenile court failed to expressly declare whether it was treating the "wobbler" assault count as a felony or a misdemeanor, as required by Welfare and Institutions Code section 702; and (3) the court erred by imposing duplicative punishment on the criminal-threat and assault counts, in violation of Penal Code section 654. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re Raymundo M." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence and held that USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) applies if the government proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant knew, intended, or had reason to believe (rather than hoped, wished, or dreamed) the gun was going to be used to buy drugs, and the sale would have (rather than may or might have) happened but for the defendant's arrest or something else getting in the way. In this case, the district court found that defendant intended that his stolen shotgun would be bartered for a pound of dope. Therefore, the court held that the district court's finding was supported by the evidence and was not clearly erroneous. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254 as untimely. The court held that its decisions in Hall v. Secy, Dep't of Corr., 921 F.3d 983, 988–90 (11th Cir. 2019); Green v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 877 F.3d 1244, 1247–49 (11th Cir. 2017), issued after the district court dismissed the petition, foreclosed the government's arguments. Hall and Green held that the one-year limitations period tolled the day a petitioner filed a procedurally noncompliant Rule 3.850 motion if he was permitted to and did later file a compliant motion. Therefore, a compliant Rule 3.850 motion relates back to the date of filing of a noncompliant motion, such that the compliant motion was "properly filed" and "pending" as of that date for purposes of tolling the limitations period in section 2244 of Title 28. In this case, because the limitations period tolled on the date of petitioner's initial motion, the court held that he timely filed his petition in federal court. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Bates v. Secretary, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed Felders’s conviction as a felon possessing a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), and his 96-month sentence, rejecting an argument that his statements should have been suppressed because the police did not give him the required “Miranda” warnings. Felders testified that the police had not given him warnings of any kind. Officer Price testified that he had taken from his credential case a card, issued by the state police, with warnings and read Felders the advice on that card. On appeal, Felders no longer denied that Price read him warnings from a card but claimed that the record does not show that the statements read from the card satisfy Miranda. The Seventh Circuit held that Felders had the burden of persuasion and, on a silent record, he cannot show that any error occurred. The district judge could have asked Price to read the card aloud, but the absence of this information cuts against Felders given the plain-error burden. The court stated that it had no “reason to believe that Indiana, or any other state, distributes warning cards that fail to satisfy the Supreme Court’s requirements.” View "United States v. Felders" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court largely affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions of violating a protective order, aggravated sexual assault relating to rape and digital penetration, kidnapping, burglary, and assault but held that the district court erred in refusing to instruct on sexual battery as a lesser included offense of aggravated sexual assault based on forcible sexual abuse. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals (1) did not err in concluding that any error in the jury instructions on aggravated sexual assault, rape, and forcible sexual abuse did not prejudice Defendant; (2) did not err in affirming the district court's refusal to instruct the jury on additional lesser included offenses of aggravated sexual assault based on rape, aggravated burglary, and aggravated kidnapping but erred in affirming the district court's refusal to instruct on sexual battery as a lesser included offense of aggravated sexual assault based on forcible sexual abuse; (3) did not err in affirming the district court’s sentence of fifteen years to life on both convictions of aggravated sexual assault; (4) did not err in concluding that the district court conducted a proper interests of justice analysis at sentencing; and (5) did not err in rejecting Norton’s claim of cumulative error.` View "State v. Norton" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the SEC initiated enforcement proceedings in the District of Arizona against appellant for illegitimate investment activities. In 2017, appellant entered into a consent agreement with the SEC, and the United States District Court for the District of Arizona ultimately held appellant liable for disgorgement in the amount of $4,494,900. Then the grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment charging appellant with, inter alia, securities fraud and unlawful sale of securities, based in part on the same conduct underlying the SEC proceeding. Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, which the district court denied. The Fourth Circuit joined with every other circuit to have decided the issue in holding that disgorgement in an SEC proceeding is not a criminal penalty pursuant to the Double Jeopardy Clause, such that an individual cannot be later prosecuted for the conduct underlying the disgorgement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of appellant's motion to dismiss the indictment. View "United States v. Bank" on Justia Law