Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. Even assuming that it was error to allow an officer to testify regarding defendant's pre-Miranda statements and actions, the admission of the testimony did not violate defendant's substantial rights. In this case, the officer testified that defendant gave a false explanation for his presence and hung his head in an apparent show of defeat at having been caught. The court rejected defendant's alleged Confrontation Clause violations, because any violation would not have posed a reasonable probability of altering the outcome of the trial and were not plain error. View "United States v. Valquier" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for two drug trafficking offenses. The government had been unaware of payments that local police made to a cooperating witness and thus failed to disclose the information to the defense. Defendant moved for a new trial based on the nondisclosure. The court held that the undisclosed payments were not material to the outcome of the proceeding and thus the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for a new trial. In this case, the impeachment value of the payment information was not so devastating as to undermine the entire prosecution. View "United States v. Dones-Vargas" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence on the ground that his arrest and subsequent searches of his hotel room and vehicle violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The court held that the evidence taken as a whole provided ample support for the district court's finding that the officers would have applied for a warrant without the illegal search. The court also held that there was also probable cause to support issuance of the search warrant even without information gleaned from the initial search. View "United States v. Anguiano" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court did not commit plain error by not merging his firearm possession counts; defendant's possession of the gun was not continuous; the admission of a detective's testimony was harmless error; there was no sentencing error because the contested fourth point to defendant's criminal history calculation could be added for the first degree robbery conviction under USSG 4A1.1(e); and defendant's prior Missouri second-degree robbery conviction constitutes a crime of violence. View "United States v. Gilliam" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of a special condition of supervised release forbidding defendant, with one exception, to use a computer or the internet without the permission of the probation office. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in fashioning the conditions of supervised release in light of defendant's convictions involving possession of child pornography and transporting lewd and lascivious materials for his own use. Furthermore, defendant demonstrated his incorrigibility by previously using a job center computer to seek child pornography, thus heightening the need for adequate deterrence and protection of the public. View "United States v. Spallek" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon. The court held that the district court did not err by determining that defendant's five convictions for selling cocaine base were serious drug convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA); an offer to sell in Missouri is categorically an offense involving distribution of a controlled substance under 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(A)(ii); and defendant's contention that the district court impermissibly found that at least three of his Missouri offenses were committed on occasions different from one another was foreclosed by circuit precedents. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he was found guilty of possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony. The court held that the district court did not err by applying a sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act, because his prior Missouri conviction for second degree robbery qualified as a violent felony under the force clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B). View "United States v. Clark" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion seeking discharge from a civil commitment in a proceeding under 18 U.S.C. 4247(h). The court held that the specific requirements of section 4247(h) control over the general statutory right to proceed pro se. Therefore, the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion. The court also held that, under the well-established rule of statutory interpretation that specific statutory language controls over more general provisions, the general rule of 28 U.S.C. 1654 must give way to the specific requirement of section 4247(h) that motions for release from civil commitment be filed by an attorney or legal guardian for the committed person. View "United States v. O'Laughlin" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's argument that his prior drug conspiracy convictions did not fall within the definition of a "controlled substance offense" was foreclosed by United States v. Mendoza-Figueroa, 65 F.3d 691 (8th Cir. 1995) (en banc). The court reviewed defendant's alternative claim, that under the categorical approach 21 U.S.C. 846 conspiracy is broader than generic conspiracy because it does not require an overt act, for plain error. Because this court has not yet considered the issue, defendant failed to show any error that was clear or obvious under current law. View "United States v. Merritt" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. Deciding not to enforce the ambiguous appeal waiver, the court held that the district court did not plainly err by sentencing defendant to consecutive sentences of 360 months' imprisonment on each count, for a total custodial sentence of 720 months. The court also held that defendant's within-Guidelines sentence was substantively reasonable and did not create an unwarranted sentencing disparity. In this case, the district court weighed the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors in calculating the sentence and the district court distinguished defendant's case from the ones he cited. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law