Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Criminal
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In 2021, Paul Greer pleaded guilty to felony domestic battery and was sentenced to a prison term of not less than two and not more than seven years. He appealed, arguing the district court abused its discretion when it: (1) failed to redline two requested corrections to the presentence investigation report ("PSI"); and (2) imposed an unreasonable sentence. The Idaho Court of Appeals rejected Greer’s argument regarding the PSI, holding that the record was insufficient to support the appeal because it included only “the PSI that was created prior to sentencing,” not the actual and potentially erroneous report distributed to the Idaho Department of Correction. The Court of Appeals also concluded that the sentence imposed was not unreasonable. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court abused its discretion when it failed to update the portions of the PSI it previously agreed were inaccurate. The court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a unified term of not less than two and not more than seven years. Judgment was thus reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Greer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Robert Stark appealed the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. Stark alleged his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance for failing to file a motion to suppress the contents of a backpack that was searched incident to Stark’s arrest. The district court dismissed Stark’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim, finding Stark did not show deficient performance or prejudice. The district court found that even if a motion to suppress had been filed, it would have been denied, either because Stark disclaimed ownership of the backpack before it was searched or because the contents of the backpack would have been inevitably discovered. Stark challenged the district court’s ruling by arguing that a motion to suppress would have been granted because: (1) the backpack was not lawfully searched incident to his arrest; (2) the contents of the backpack would not have been inevitably discovered; and (3) his disclaimer of ownership was legally ineffective. Stark thereafter appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the dismissal. Finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed it. View "Stark v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Jessie Adams appealed an order to pay $15,053.49 in restitution stemming from his conviction of petit theft. The State charged Adams with two separate counts of grand theft. A jury found Adams guilty of the first charge of grand theft; as to the second charge, the jury acquitted Adams of grand theft but found him guilty of the lesser-included offense of petit theft. The district court ordered Adams to pay $15,053.49 in restitution related to his conviction for petit theft. Adams argued the district court had abused its discretion in ordering restitution in an amount greater than $999.99, “the amount associated with the statutory delineation between grand theft and petit theft.” The Idaho Supreme Court concurred the district court abused its discretion by ordering restitution in excess of $1000. The judgment was therefore vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Adams" on Justia Law

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Chad Schiermeier appealed the summary disposition of his petition for post-conviction relief. In 2017, Schiermeier was charged and convicted of one count of grand theft for stealing money from the Blaine County Sheriff’s DARE program. Schiermeier, a Blaine County Deputy Sheriff, had been the manager of the program for several years and had spent large sums of the program’s money on various items for his personal use. Schiermeier appealed his conviction and sentence to the Idaho Supreme Court, which then affirmed. In 2020, Schiermeier, through the same private attorney who had represented him during his trial, petitioned for post-conviction relief, arguing that his appellate counsel (a Deputy State Appellate Public Defender) had been ineffective for failing to raise several issues in his direct appeal. The State moved for summary disposition, which the district court granted. Schiermeier timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s summary disposition of Schiermeier’s petition for post-conviction relief. View "Schiermeier v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Kathryn Adkins appealed her conviction for felony concealment of evidence. Whether the crime of concealment of evidence was a felony depends on whether the investigation or trial to which the evidence related involved a misdemeanor offense or a felony offense. Because the felony status of the underlying offense was a “fact” that increases the maximum sentence that may be imposed, Adkins argued that in a jury trial this must be decided by the jury, not the judge. To this the Idaho Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment of conviction. The sentence imposed by the district court, however, exceeded the maximum permitted under Idaho Code section 18-2603. The sentence was vacated and remanded for entry of a corrected sentence. View "Idaho v. Adkins" on Justia Law

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Darin Ogden was convicted on one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of sexual battery. Ogden argued the convictions should have been vacated because of several erroneous evidentiary rulings made by the district court, which deprived Ogden of his constitutional right to confront witnesses and present a defense. Alternatively, Ogden argued his sentences should have been vacated because the court considered unreliable information related to earlier conduct for which he had been acquitted. Ogden also requested that the presentence investigation report be redacted to omit those allegations. The Idaho Supreme Court determined that although the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Ogden’s first Rule 412(b) motion seeking to introduce evidence of V.H.’s (the victim) sexual history with Michael Roller, it abused its discretion by denying Ogden’s second Rule 412(b) motion seeking to introduce evidence of V.H.’s sexual history with Ty Birchfield. The Court affirmed Ogden's conviction for sexual battery, but vacated his conviction for sexual exploitation of a child, and the case was remanded for a new trial. View "Idaho v. Ogden" on Justia Law

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Police apprehended defendant Clarence Lancaster for questioning relating to several ATM thefts in Boise, Idaho. He was later charged and ultimately entered conditional guilty pleas to two felonies: burglary and grand theft. This appeal arose from the denial of his motion to suppress. Lancaster argued that his confession and other evidence should have been suppressed because the arresting officers violated Idaho Code section 19-608 by failing to tell Lancaster the basis of his arrest. He maintains that this statutory violation rendered his arrest an unreasonable seizure under Article 1, Section 17 of the Idaho Constitution. He also argues that the district judge abused its discretion at sentencing by failing to strike an attachment to the Presentence Investigation Report. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Lancaster's conviction. View "Idaho v. Lancaster" on Justia Law

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On April 24, 2019, Deputy Brott stopped defendant-appellant Arthur Vivian’s car because Vivian’s brake lights were not working. Brott recorded the stop using a body camera. Vivian informed Brott that his license had been suspended and Brott began investigating the reason for Vivian’s suspended license. After five minutes and forty seconds of interaction with Vivian, Brott returned to his vehicle to run Vivian’s license. Brott talked to Officer Short, who had recently arrived at the scene. Short advised Brott that there was a possibility there could be narcotics in Vivian’s vehicle. Brott called for a drug detecting K-9 unit nine minutes into the stop. Brott exited his patrol car with the completed citation and Vivian’s license at sixteen minutes and forty-six seconds into the stop. Deputy Hickam and a drug detecting K-9 arrived eighteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds into the stop. At nineteen minutes and twenty-nine seconds Brott approached Vivian’s vehicle, asked Vivian to exit the vehicle and requested to pat him down. Brott issued the suspended license citation at twenty minutes and forty seconds. During the time Brott explained the citation to Vivian, the drug K-9 alerted to a controlled substance in the vehicle. A subsequent search discovered a bag containing methamphetamine. Vivian appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained following his traffic stop, arguing the stop was unlawfully extended, and statements made before and after the delay were gathered in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The State contended that evidence of the drugs would have been inevitably discovered, and thus statements made relating to those drugs were admissible under the same doctrine. The Idaho Supreme Court rejected that argument, finding verbal statements were different than physical evidence "because a defendant could choose, if given time for reflection, not to make the statements or to answer differently." The Court held the inevitable discovery exception did not apply to statements that would otherwise be excluded as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” The district court’s decision that Vivian’s post-Miranda statements were admissible was reversed, Vivian’s judgment of conviction was vacated, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Vivian" on Justia Law

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Probation officers detained Natalie Miramontes while conducting a residence check on a female probationer, Christine Evans. During the detention, probation officers searched Miramontes’ purse and found suspected drug paraphernalia. Probation officers paused the search and contacted police. Once police arrived, officers resumed the search and, inside a pantry converted to a spare bedroom, they uncovered more drug paraphernalia and a substance that tested presumptively positive for methamphetamine. Miramontes told police she had been sleeping inside the spare room. Miramontes moved to suppress all evidence found during her detention. The district court denied her motion. Miramontes entered a conditional guilty plea and reserved her right to appeal. She appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed her conviction. Miramontes petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court for review, arguing the district court erred when it denied her motion to suppress because officers searched her purse without reasonable and articulable suspicion. She also argued the items found during the later search of the spare bedroom would not have been inevitably discovered without the unlawful search of her purse. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision denying Miramontes’ motion to suppress and remanded for fact-finding on whether Miramontes was unlawfully searched. View "Idaho v. Miramontes" on Justia Law

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Matthew Fox appealed his convictions for robbery, aggravated battery, possession of marijuana, and possession of methamphetamine. Charges arose from an incident in 2017 in which Fox allegedly pistol whipped his victim demanding money allegedly owed for methamphetamine. The victim drove to a nearby school's parking lot, "hysterically trying to get someone to call 911." A parent leaving his child's concert at the school noticed the victim and called 911. Officers responding to the victim used his description of the incident to find Fox's car and arrest Fox. The search netted (1) a briefcase with methamphetamine, marijuana, and other drug paraphernalia, (2) the victim's cellphone, and (3) a Smith & Wesson handgun. The same day as Fox’s arrest, Fox’s former fiancé, Nicole Walker, called the Kootenai County Sheriff’s department to report that her 9mm handgun was missing. Walker went into the police station the next day and identified the Smith & Wesson handgun found in Fox’s car as hers. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Fox's convictions and sentences. View "Idaho v. Fox" on Justia Law