Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court held in this interlocutory appeal that the district court may not judge the sufficiency of the defendant's showing necessary to overcome a motion to quash based solely on an in camera proffer without first affording the State an opportunity to respond.Defendant was charged with seven felony charges for an alleged pattern of sexual abuse in connection with A.W. over the course of several years while Defendant was A.W.'s pastor. Defendant denied the charges and served A.W. with a subpoena to appear and testify at his preliminary hearing. A.W. moved to quash the subpoena. Defendant moved to make the showing necessary to overcome the motion to quash in camera and only in the district court. The district court granted the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant must make his proffer under State v. Lopez, 474 P.3d 949 (Utah 2020), in open court, giving the State an opportunity to respond. View "State v. Archibeque" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's motion brought under Utah R. Civ. P. 70(b) or, alternatively, as a motion for a misplea, arguing that the prosecution breached the parties' plea agreement, holding that Appellant's constitutional challenge to his guilty plea was properly considered only under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act (PCRA).Appellant was charged with aggravated murder and other counts related to making and transporting a bomb. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Appellant pled guilty to depraved indifference murder. Twenty-three years later, Appellant brought this motion, arguing that there was no other available avenue for relief. The district court dismissed the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's claim should have been brought under the PCRA. View "State v. Thurman" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction and the denial of his motion to suppress, holding that the State did not meet its burden in rebutting a presumptively unreasonable seizure.The police found Defendant sleeping in his car in a McDonald's parking lot. The officers asked Defendant to exist his vehicle and ordered him to perform a field sobriety test. Defendant was subsequently charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Defendant moved to suppress evidence and statements as a result of his seizure, arguing that his seizure and subsequent searches were unlawful. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant's seizure was justified by the community caretaking doctrine. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State did not meet is burden to rebut the presumption of unreasonableness. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court convicting Defendant of aggravated battery and denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction.A jury convicted Defendant of aggravated robbery. Defendant appealed, arguing that a 911 call was inadmissible hearsay and that its admission at trial was prejudicial error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly admitted the 911 call under the present sense impression exception to the rule against hearsay; and (2) this Court declines to reexamine caselaw requiring criminal appellants to show prejudice from preserved errors. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals correctly held that the conduct of two court personnel triggered a rebuttable presumption against Defendant, holding that remand was required.The court personnel in this case shared a nonpublic courthouse elevator with a jury during Defendant's trial and either told the jurors to find Defendant guilty and "hang him" or stood quietly in the elevator. On appeal, Defendant argued that the improper juror contact denied him his constitutional right to a fair trial and impartial jury. The court of appeals agreed and reversed Defendant's conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the improper contact violated Defendant's right to an impartial jury and triggered a rebuttable presumption that Defendant was prejudiced by the constitutional error; and (2) the case must be remanded for a determination as to whether the State had met its burden. View "State v. Soto" on Justia Law

by
In this case involving to multiple prosecutions of Defendant for the robbery and theft of a used car the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing a subsequent charge against Defendant for aggravated robbery in Weber County, holding that all provisions under Utah's Single Criminal Episode Statute, Utah Code 76-1-401 to -403, were met.The State prosecuted Defendant in Weber County for aggravated robbery after he had already been convicted of theft by receiving in Utah County for conduct arising under the same criminal episode. After the court of appeals dismissed the Weber County charge the State appealed, arguing that Defendant's convictions were not part of a single criminal episode and that the Single Criminal Episode Statute did not apply because the district court in Utah County did not have jurisdiction to hear both offenses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the conviction of Defendant in Utah County for theft by receiving barred the State's subsequent prosecution of Defendant in Weber County for aggravated robbery. View "State v. Sisneros" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction on a misdemeanor charge of threatening to use a dangerous weapon in a quarrel with his father, holding that Defendant identified no basis for reversal.The district court concluded that Defendant's "use or threat of the weapon under the circumstances was not necessary or reasonable" and found him guilty as charged. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing that the court of appeals erred in affirming the conviction under an "objective standard of reasonableness." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant did not establish that the court of appeals adopted a standard of reasonableness that differed from the one articulated in this opinion; and (2) Defendant failed to show that there was error in the application of the statutory standard in the district court. View "State v. Sorbonne" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court denying Petitioners' petition for satisfaction of judgment but remanded for correction of a clerical error, holding that Petitioners were not entitled to satisfaction of a judgment.Petitioners were convicted of twelve counts of theft in connection with a real estate deal with entered into with Kerry and Bobbie Posey. As part of a settlement, the Poseys released all civil claims they had against Defendants. In their criminal cases, Petitioners argued that the district court could not base a restitution order on claims for which the Poseys had been remunerated. The district court denied the argument and ordered restitution. The court of appeals affirmed, and the restitution order transformed into a civil judgment. Petitioners then filed a satisfaction of judgment in an effort to extinguish the judgment. The district court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the settlement agreement Petitioners entered into with the Poseys did not entitle them to a satisfaction of a judgment. View "State v. Diderickson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the restitution order of the district court in connection with Defendant's conviction of theft and theft by deception and otherwise affirmed, holding that litigation expenses incurred in collateral litigation are an appropriate element of restitution under the Crime Victims Restitution Act.On appeal from her conviction and sentence, Defendant challenged the decision to include certain fees in the restitution order and further raised a series of objections to the inclusion of certain electronic transfers in the calculation of the amount of the victims' losses. The State confessed error as to certain transfers, and the court of appeals reversed and remanded for entry of an amended order of restitution but rejected Defendant's other contentions. The Supreme Court remanded to the district court to allow it to enter an amended restitution order excluding the amounts of the four subject transactions but otherwise affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to establish any ground for questioning any of the other electronic transfers in question. View "State v. Sevastopoulos" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the district court's dismissal of Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that there was no error.Testing of a buccal swab of Defendant's cheek showed that Defendant was a genetic match for DNA found on evidence at the scene of a murder. Prior to his criminal trial, Defendant moved to suppress the DNA evidence, arguing that the forcible collection of the sample had violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion, and a jury convicted Defendant of murder, aggravated burglary, and possession of a weapon by a restricted person. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err in affirming the district court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from the buccal swab, nor did it err in rejecting Defendant's statutory arguments. View "State v. Evans" on Justia Law