Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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The court of appeals has the same authority to overturn its own precedent as does the Supreme Court and did not err in this case in concluding that collateral legal consequences will not be presumed when an appeal from a probation revocation has otherwise become moot. While Defendant’s appeal of the revocation of his probation was in process, Defendant completed the sentence required by the revocation and was released. Although two of its prior decisions had contradictory holdings, the court of appeals dismissed Defendant’s case as moot because of his release. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals acted appropriately in overturning its prior precedent in this case; and (2) although collateral legal consequences are presumed to avoid mootness in appeals of criminal convictions, they are not presumed for appeals of probation revocations, and therefore, any defendant wishing to continue a moot appeal of a probation revocation must establish collateral legal consequences. View "State v. Legg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during a Terry stop. Specifically, the Court held (1) when law enforcement officers stopped Defendant’s vehicle, they had reasonable suspicion to investigate two traffic violations and possible drug possession; (2) when the officers approached the vehicle they gained reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence; and (3) under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the officers were entitled to detain Defendant for a reasonable time while they investigated these offenses. View "State v. Binks" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during a Terry stop. Specifically, the Court held (1) when law enforcement officers stopped Defendant’s vehicle, they had reasonable suspicion to investigate two traffic violations and possible drug possession; (2) when the officers approached the vehicle they gained reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence; and (3) under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the officers were entitled to detain Defendant for a reasonable time while they investigated these offenses. View "State v. Binks" on Justia Law

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Here, the Supreme Court clarified the standard the Crime Victims Restitution Act (CVRA) requires the district court to employ to determine whether a defendant caused the loss for which a victim seeks restitution. Defendant in this case sexually abused Victim several times and pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Victim intervened in Defendant’s restitution hearing to seek restitution for the anticipated cost of mental health treatment for the remainder of her life. The district court entered orders for complete and court-ordered restitution. On appeal, Defendant argued that Victim’s damages were caused, in part, by her subsequent sexual abuse by another person and that the court based its complete restitution award upon speculation about expenses Victim would incur in the future. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that the CVRA requires that a district court include the losses that a defendant proximately causes in its complete restitution determination. Remanded with directions that the district court ensure that it rests its restitution calculation on non-speculative evidence of losses that Victim has incurred or will likely incur. View "State v. Ogden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of criminal homicide murder for killing Shannon Lopez. Defendant’s defense at trial was that Shannon shot herself. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in (1) admitting expert testimony that assessed Shannon’s risk of suicide, and (2) admitting evidence that Defendant had previously pointed a gun at Shannon’s had and had leveled a gun at an ex-wife and threatened to kill her. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the State did not lay a sufficient foundation to demonstrate that the theory its expert employed could be reliably used to assess the suicide risk of someone who had died; (2) the district court erred by admitting the evidence of Defendant’s prior actions; and (3) the errors were harmful. View "State v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of criminal homicide murder for killing Shannon Lopez. Defendant’s defense at trial was that Shannon shot herself. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in (1) admitting expert testimony that assessed Shannon’s risk of suicide, and (2) admitting evidence that Defendant had previously pointed a gun at Shannon’s had and had leveled a gun at an ex-wife and threatened to kill her. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the State did not lay a sufficient foundation to demonstrate that the theory its expert employed could be reliably used to assess the suicide risk of someone who had died; (2) the district court erred by admitting the evidence of Defendant’s prior actions; and (3) the errors were harmful. View "State v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals affirmed the determination of the district court that it did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate Petitioner’s motions challenging the order of the Board of Pardons and Parole requiring him to pay restitution as untimely and therefore legally invalid. Petitioner was convicted of automobile homicide and served a five-year sentence. Following his release, the Board ordered Petitioner to pay $7,000 of restitution toward his victim’s funeral expenses. Petitioner filed various motions with the sentencing court challenging the restitution order. The district court denied the motions on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in the basis of Utah Code 77-27-6(4), holding that judicial review of the Parole Board’s restitution order is expressly foreclosed by statute. View "State v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals affirmed the determination of the district court that it did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate Petitioner’s motions challenging the order of the Board of Pardons and Parole requiring him to pay restitution as untimely and therefore legally invalid. Petitioner was convicted of automobile homicide and served a five-year sentence. Following his release, the Board ordered Petitioner to pay $7,000 of restitution toward his victim’s funeral expenses. Petitioner filed various motions with the sentencing court challenging the restitution order. The district court denied the motions on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in the basis of Utah Code 77-27-6(4), holding that judicial review of the Parole Board’s restitution order is expressly foreclosed by statute. View "State v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Unavailability of witnesses for trial may not be established merely on the basis of an illness on the particular day a trial is scheduled by a court. Rather, there must be a showing that the illness is of such an extended duration that a reasonable continuance would not allow the witness to testify. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s aggravated robbery conviction but affirmed Defendant’s possession of a firearm by a restricted conviction. The court held (1) the trial court committed prejudicial error in admitting preliminary hearing testimony under Utah R. Evid. 804 because the witness in question was not unavailable for trial under the standard clarified in this opinion and because the testimony was inadmissible because Defendant’s motive to cross-examine the witnesses at the preliminary hearing was not similar to the one he would have at trial; and (2) any error in admitting evidence of field test results, offered to confirm that a substance found on Defendant was marijuana, was harmless. View "State v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to the Board of Pardons and Parole on the question of whether it violated the due process rights of Michael Neese, a Utah prison inmate, under Utah Const. art. I, 7. The Parole Board denied Neese - who had never been convicted of a sex offense, subjected to prison discipline for sexual misconduct, or otherwise adjudicated a sexual offender - an original release date for parole largely based on its determination that he was a sex offender and his refusal to participate in sex offender treatment. Neese filed a pro se petition for a writ of extraordinary release, arguing that the Parole Board violated his due process rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the Parole Board, concluding that Neese received due process under the Utah Constitution. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that before the Parole Board may take the refusal of inmates in the position of Neese to participate in sex offender treatment into consideration in deciding whether to grant them parole, it owes them additional procedural protections described in this opinion. View "Neese v. Utah Board of Pardons & Parole" on Justia Law