Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Criminal
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Defendant-appellant was convicted by jury of domestic battery, attempted strangulation, and aggravated assault. He appealed to the Idaho Court of Appeals, which affirmed his convictions. Reyes petitioned for review by the Idaho Supreme Court, which was granted. On appeal, Reyes requested his convictions be vacated, arguing: (1) several evidentiary issues, including the admission of irrelevant and prejudicial evidence, rendered his trial unfair; (2) the district court abused its discretion when it found that the victim was unavailable to testify at trial under Idaho Rule of Evidence 804(a)(5) and allowed her preliminary hearing testimony to be read into the record; (3) the prosecutor’s closing argument impermissibly implied that the victim did not testify because she feared Reyes; and (4) these errors, when taken together, deprived him of his right to due process and a fair trial. After review, the Supreme Court found the district court erred when it determined the victim was unavailable to testify at trial, and allowed her preliminary hearing testimony to be read into the record. Further, the Court concurred the prosecutor's comment that the victim was "probably scared" to testify at trial was improper. In the aggregate, the Court concluded these errors rendered the trial unfair. Accordingly, Reyes' conviction was reversed and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Idaho v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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A drug dog leapt into defendant-appellant Jacob Randall’s rental car during what was supposed to have been an exterior sniff. After the dog alerted to the presence of narcotics, officers searched the car and discovered 65 pounds of marijuana. Relying on an Idaho Court of Appeals case providing that a drug dog’s “instinctive” actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment, the district court denied Randall’s motion to suppress evidence of the marijuana because it found the dog’s entry was instinctive. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the rule articulated by the Court of Appeals and applied by the district court was inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment. View "Idaho v. Randall" on Justia Law

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In March 2019, police officers stopped defendant-appellant Aaron Howard for a traffic violation and took him into custody after discovering an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Officers then brought in a drug-sniffing dog (“Pico”) to sniff the exterior of the car. Pico alerted to the presence of illegal drugs, and a subsequent search of the care uncovered methamphetamine, heroin and drug paraphernalia. Howard appealed the denial his motion to suppress the drug evidence, arguing the intrusion of the dog into the physical space of the car was a trespass, and therefore, an unlawful search under the common law trespassory test articulated in United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400 (2012). The Idaho Supreme Court agreed, reversed the denial of Howard’s motion to suppress, vacated his conviction, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Howard" on Justia Law

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In December 2018, a Jack-in-the-Box employee suspected a “drunk driver” was in the restaurant’s drive-through line and reported this suspicion to law enforcement. An officer arrived on the scene and reported an odor of alcohol emanating from the passenger side of the vehicle, as well as empty alcohol containers on the floor near the vehicle’s passenger. The officer directed the driver, later identified as Andrew Wilson, to park the car. Wilson exited the vehicle. After noticing the odor of alcohol coming from Wilson, the officer began conducting field sobriety tests. The officer interpreted Wilson’s results as presenting signs of impairment. The officer then arrested Wilson for driving under the influence (DUI). A warrant for a blood draw was ultimately obtained after Wilson refused to submit to a breath test. The result of the blood draw conducted at the Pocatello Police Department reported a blood alcohol content of 0.192 percent. Wilson was charged with felony DUI based on two prior DUI convictions within the previous ten years. Wilson moved to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of his initial detention, arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to detain him in the restaurant parking lot. The district court granted Wilson’s motion and dismissed the charge against him with prejudice. The State appealed this decision to the Idaho Court of Appeals, which reversed the district court. The Idaho Supreme Court granted Wilson’s petition for review, and affirmed the district court’s decision to suppress because the State failed to preserve its argument for appeal. The Supreme Court found the State did not submit a responsive motion to Wilson's motion at the suppression hearing. "Allowing the State to argue on appeal that Officer Malone developed reasonable suspicion to detain Wilson prior to Wilson’s exit from the vehicle, when it implicitly conceded this point below, 'would sharply cut against our longstanding and recently re-affirmed policy of requiring parties to present their arguments to the court below[.]'" View "Idaho v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a district court’s order granting Jennifer Warren’s (“Jennifer”) motion to suppress evidence. Boise Police Department Officer Matthew Lane stopped a GMC Yukon for a canceled and expired registration. The vehicle was driven by Steven Warren (“Steven”), and Jennifer was in the passenger seat. Steven told officers that Jennifer was his wife. Lane ran the identification information supplied by both parties, and the data system alerted there was a civil protection order and a criminal no-contact order in place preventing Steven from having contact with Jennifer. At this point, the officer abandoned the original purpose of the traffic stop in order to investigate whether Steven was in violation of either order by being with Jennifer in the car. To separate Jennifer from Steven, a second officer, Andrew Morlock, asked Jennifer to step out of the vehicle. Morlock asked Jennifer about some bulges in her pockets, and she pulled out a lighter, some money, and two syringes wrapped in tissue. Lane ran his drug-detection dog around the vehicle, and the dog alerted. A search of the car turned up a suspected marijuana joint and a tin holding small containers of a waxy substance, one of which later tested presumptively positive for marijuana. Jennifer’s purse was also in the vehicle and contained pills later identified as hydrocodone. During the car search, dispatch confirmed that the criminal no-contact order against Steven was active. Steven was taken into custody; Jennifer was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, and a subsequent search of her person revealed another syringe and a baggie of methamphetamine hidden in her bra. The State charged Jennifer with possession of methamphetamine, possession of hydrocodone, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia, as well as a persistent violator enhancement. The district court concluded the officers had no lawful basis to continue detaining Jennifer, a passenger in a vehicle, after officers abandoned the original purpose of the traffic stop in order to investigate whether the driver was in violation of a criminal no contact order barring him from being with Jennifer. On appeal, the State argued that reasonable suspicion a driver is engaged in criminal conduct not only allows officers to extend a traffic stop and detain the driver, but it also includes the continued lawful detention of all passengers. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court concurred and reversed the district court's suppression order. View "Idaho v. Warren" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Kelvin Alvarenga-Lopez appealed a district court’s denial of his motion to suppress. The State charged Alvarenga-Lopez with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. An officer observed a white Toyota Celica driving around 1 AM on the opposite side of the road. Because there was little traffic at that hour, the officer decided to conduct a “registration query,” through which he learned the car's registered owner was on probation. The officer followed the Celica as it made two more turns, then pulled over in front of a house. The officer pulled up behind the Celica, got out and walked to the driver's side door. The officer asked the driver, defendant, what he was doing in the area and where he was coming from. The house Alvarenga-Lopez parked in front of had a real estate sign and appeared to be empty. In addition, the registration query Officer Boardman conducted showed “there was no residence associated with that vehicle, [and] that the return didn’t come back to that location or anywhere near it.” The officer also described the circuitous route Alvarenga-Lopez took before parking as suspicious. After conducting his queries, the officer asked for and received verbal consent to search the Celica. During the search, the officer asked whether there was anything inside the care he needed to be aware of inside the vehicle. Alvarenga-Lopez responded that there was crystal meth in the center console. When the officer searched the center console he found a piece of clear cellophane with white crystalline substance he recognized as consistent with methamphetamine. Alvarenga-Lopez was then arrested. Alvarenga-Lopez argued he was unlawfully seized when an officer began questioning him at his car window. Thus, he claimed the evidence obtained during a subsequent search of the vehicle should have been suppressed as fruit of the unlawful seizure. The district court denied Alvarenga-Lopez’s motion to suppress after concluding the initial encounter was consensual. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Alvarenga-Lopez" on Justia Law

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While the issue on appeal in this case centered on a conviction for violating a protection order, the principal focus was on the statutes and guidelines governing domestic violence courts in Idaho. Moawia Ahmed was charged with violating a protection order under Idaho Code section 39- 6312. At his arraignment, Ahmed’s case was transferred to the Domestic Violence Court (“DVC”). In his pretrial motions, Ahmed moved the magistrate court to dismiss the charge on constitutional grounds. The magistrate court denied Ahmed’s motion, the case proceeded to trial, and, ultimately, a jury found Ahmed guilty. Ahmed appealed his conviction to the district court. Ahmed maintained the magistrate court erred in denying his motion to dismiss. Ahmed also argued the magistrate court erred by: (1) admitting hearsay evidence; (2) failing to properly instruct the jury; and (3) requiring Ahmed to undergo a domestic violence assessment. The district court, in its intermediate appellate capacity, affirmed. Ahmed appealed the district court’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision. View "Idaho v. Ahmed" on Justia Law

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Patricia Amstutz appealed her conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”). Amstutz argued the district court erred in denying her motion to suppress because she was arrested, without a warrant, for a completed misdemeanor offense that occurred outside of the officer’s presence. She claimed that her rights under the Idaho Constitution based on the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision in Idaho v. Clarke, 446 P.3d 451 (2019) were violated. After review, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order denying Amstutz’s motion to suppress, vacated her judgment of conviction, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Amstutz" on Justia Law

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Timothy Dacey was convicted by jury of Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”). He received a second offense sentencing enhancement. During his trial, the magistrate judge allowed Officer Jessica Raddatz, a trained drug recognition expert, to testify as a lay witness about the physical indicators that a person is on the “downside” from methamphetamine use. On intermediate appeal, the district court affirmed. Dacey argued the district court erred in affirming his conviction and sentence because: (1) the “downside” testimony qualified as expert witness testimony, which should have been disclosed in discovery; and (2) the magistrate court failed to conduct the appropriate analysis to determine whether this alleged expert witness testimony was admissible. Dacey also argued the district court on intermediate appeal applied the wrong legal standard in determining that any error was harmless. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in upholding the magistrate court’s ruling that allowed Raddatz to testify as a lay witness. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case to the district court with direction to vacate Dacey’s judgment of conviction and remand it to the magistrate court for further proceedings. The Court also announced that, henceforth, trial testimony from a drug recognition expert requires expert witness disclosure in accordance with Idaho Criminal Rule 16(b)(7). View "Idaho v. Dacey" on Justia Law

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In 2018, Marissa Dempsey was convicted by a jury of several counts of burglary, grand theft, and petit theft, after which the district court entered an order requiring Dempsey to pay restitution to the victims of the crimes. Dempsey appealed on three grounds: (1) her conviction on one count of grand theft should have been reduced to petit theft because conviction for grand theft required the State to prove the stolen property was worth more than $1,000, which she alleged the State failed to do; (2) the prosecuting attorney committed prosecutorial misconduct by making several improper statements during closing arguments that constituted fundamental error, thereby entitling her to a new trial; and (3) the district court erred in ordering restitution for several items stolen from the victims. With regard to certain jewelry, electronics, coin collections, and other property, Dempsey contended the district court erred because the State failed to present substantial evidence to establish the market value of the property at the time of the crime. Regarding restitution for the cost to replace a stock certificate and three certified marriage certificates, Dempsey argued the district court erred because the victim had not actually incurred the cost of replacing the documents before sentencing. While the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Dempsey's conviction on all counts, it concurred with her latter argument that it was error to order restitution for a stolen coin collection and perfume, and in awarding restitution for the replacement cost of stock and marriage certificates. View "Idaho v. Dempsey" on Justia Law