Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court dismissed this consolidated appeal brought by the State as to each of three jointly indicted defendants from a trial court order dismissing certain counts of the indictment against them, holding that the State has no right of appeal from the dismissal of counts of an indictment or information. Defendants moved to dismiss several counts of the joint indictment on the grounds of multiplicity. The trial court granted the motion as to counts three through sixteen, leaving some counts of the indictment for further proceedings. The State appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, holding that S.D. Codified Laws 23A-32-4 does not authorize an appeal of right from a dismissal of individual counts, and therefore, this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the State's appeals. View "State v. Steffensen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's the order of the circuit court granting Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of Defendant's arrest, holding that the circuit court erred when it refused to consider the application of the attenuation doctrine and suppressed the evidence. Defendant was charged with possession of methamphetamine and false impersonation. Before trial, Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of her interaction with police officers on the grounds that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain her. The circuit court granted the motion to suppress. Despite the State's argument that the attenuation doctrine applied, the circuit court did not analyze the applicability of the attenuation doctrine. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the connection between Defendant's detention and the subsequent search was interrupted by the discovery of the existence of a valid, preexisting and unrelated warrant, the attenuation factors weighed in favor of the State. View "State v. Mousseaux" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for possession of a controlled substance, holding that the circuit court judge did not err when he continued to preside over Defendant's case after Defendant filed an affidavit for change of judge. Defendant pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance. The circuit court, the Honorable Tony Portra presiding, received Defendant's guilty plea. The Supreme Court reversed. On remand, instead of consulting his appointed counsel, Defendant filed an affidavit for change of judge. Judge Portra denied Defendant's request for change of judge. Thereafter, Defendant pled guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance. Defendant later filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus. The habeas court granted the writ and ordered that Defendant be resentenced. The court imposed the same sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Judge Portra violated S.D. Codified Laws 15-12-22 by presiding over the hearing on Defendant's affidavit for a change of judge and determining that Defendant's affidavit was not properly filed; but (2) because Defendant was not entitled to file the affidavit, Judge Portra's non-compliance with section 15-12-22 did not deprive the court of authority to accept Defendant's guilty plea and impose a sentence. View "State v. Hirning" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's sentence of eighty years imprisonment with forty years suspended for first-degree manslaughter, holding that the sentence was not grossly disproportionate to the offense and did not violate the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's sentence was not grossly disproportionate to the offense of first-degree manslaughter under the Eighth Amendment; (2) at sentencing, the circuit court properly examined the events surrounding the offense, Defendant's character and history, and Defendant's rehabilitation prospects; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in crafting the sentence. View "State v. Holler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal after a jury found Defendant guilty of aggravated assault, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict. After a trial, the jury found Defendant guilty of aggravated assault. Defendant moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which the circuit court denied. The court sentenced Defendant to a seven-year term of imprisonment, suspended in favor of probation for three years. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State proved every element of aggravated assault, and a rational trier of fact could have found Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Ware" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on his aggravated assault conviction, holding that there was sufficient evidence on the record, and inferences that could have been drawn therefrom, to sustain a reasonable theory of guilt of aggravated assault by extreme indifference beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury convicted Defendant of aggravated assault and simple assault. The circuit court denied Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on both charges at the close of the State's evidence. The court, however, granted Defendant's renewed motion for judgment of acquittal on the aggravated assault conviction after the trial. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the circuit court with instructions to reinstate the jury's verdict, holding that the circuit court erred in granting Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal because there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's guilty verdict. View "State v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing as untimely Appellant's appeal of an order of the Board of Pardons and Paroles revoking Appellant's parole, holding that the circuit court did not err. Thirty-four days after the Board entered an amended order revoking Appellant's parole the clerk of court received and filed Appellant's pro se notice of appeal. The Board filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, claiming it was untimely. The circuit court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err when it dismissed as untimely Appellant's appeal of the Board's decision revoking Appellant's parole; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellant's request for a standby attorney at the hearing on the motion to dismiss his appeal. View "Abdulrazzak v. South Dakota Board of Pardons & Paroles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendants' convictions of first-degree manslaughter and sentences of life imprisonment, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion in either case. Daniel Ceplecha and his son, Rangler Ceplecha, each pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter pursuant to a plea agreement. Prior to sentencing, Defendants filed motions to withdraw their pleas, asserting that they acted in self-defense. The circuit court denied the motions. Thereafter, the circuit court sentenced each defendant to life in prison. The Supreme Court affirmed, that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in denying Rangler's motion for new counsel because he failed to establish a fair and just reason in support of his request; (2) did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendants' motions to withdraw their guilty pleas; and (3) did not abuse its discretion or violate the Eighth Amendment by imposing life sentences. View "State v. Ceplecha" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of hit and run involving an injury, holding that the State was not required to prove that Defendant had knowledge of an accident-related injury. Defendant pled guilty to driving under the influence, second offense, and, after a bench trial, was convicted of felony hit and run. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred when it found that S.D. Codified Laws 32-34-5 does not require knowledge of the injury as an essential element. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, the circuit court did not err in determining that knowledge of the injury was not an essential element of a felony hit-and-run offense and denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. View "State v. Nekolite" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of second-degree murder, holding that the circuit court did not err in its evidentiary rulings and that there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court abused its discretion by admitting other acts testimony from three witnesses over Defendant's objection and erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to establish that the admission of the challenged testimony was unfairly prejudicial or that it affected the jury's verdict; and (2) because a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction of second-degree murder. View "State v. Harruff" on Justia Law