Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals rejecting Defendant's assertion that his second criminal prosecution violated the constitutional proscription of double jeopardy, holding that the State's second prosecution of Defendant for sexual assault did not violate the double jeopardy provisions of the Fifth Amendment or Article I, Section 8 of the Wisconsin Constitution. A jury acquitted Defendant of the charge of repeated sexual assault of a child for engaging in sexual intercourse with the victim, M.T., in "late summer to early fall of 2012." Thereafter, paternity tests revealed that Defendant was the father of M.T.'s child. The State subsequently charged Defendant with sexual assault of a child under sixteen years of age occurring "on or about October 19, 2012," the date it was determined the child was conceived. Defendant was convicted. Defendant moved for postconviction relief, asserting that his second prosecution violated the constitutional proscription of double jeopardy. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the two cases against Defendant did not involve the "same offense" under the Double Jeopardy Clause. View "State v. Schultz" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals, holding that venue in Fond du Lac County was proper but that two of the charges on which the jury convicted Defendant were multiplicitous. Defendant was transported to the Fond du Lac County jail to face criminal charges unrelated to this case. During the booking process, a cache of narcotics and prescription medications was discovered in Defendant's boot. This case was then brought in the Fond du Lac County circuit court. A jury found Defendant guilty of multiple drug-related charges. Defendant filed a postconviction motion claiming that venue was improper in Fond du Lac County because he did not possess the drugs when the deputy discovered them where his arrest in Kenosha County terminated his ability to possess contraband on his person. Defendant also argued that two charges for possessing oxycodone were multiplicitous. The postconviction court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendant did not lose possession of the drugs in his boot upon his arrest, and because he still possessed the drugs in Fond du Lac County, venue there was proper; and (2) the two charges at issue were multiplicitous. View "State v. Brantner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming a $4,800 fine imposed by the circuit court upon sentencing Defendant for third-offense OWI, holding that the court of appeals erred in interpreting the penalty enhancers in Wisconsin's OWI statutes. Defendant faced two penalty enhancers. At issue was how the penalty enhancers' provisions requiring "doubling" and "quadrupling" of the fine for a third-offense OWI should be determined when multiple penalty enhancers apply. The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in affirming the $4,800 fine imposed by the circuit court, holding that, under the correct interpretation of the statutes, Defendant's two fines totaled $3,600, not $4,800. View "State v. Neill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court modified the decision of the court of appeals affirming Appellant's judgment of conviction and the denial of her motion for postconviction relief and affirmed as modified, holding that Appellant appropriately raised her challenge to the circuit court's use of previously unknown information during sentencing and that there was no due process violation in this case. On appeal, Appellant claimed, among other things, that the circuit court denied her due process at sentencing by failing to provide her with notice that it would consider previously unknown information first raised by the court at sentencing. The State responded that Appellant forfeited her direct challenge to the previously unknown information considered at sentencing because she failed to object at the sentencing hearing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) where previously unknown information is raised by the circuit court at a sentencing hearing a defendant does not forfeit a direct challenge to the use of the information by failing to object at the hearing; and (2) Appellant's due process rights were not violated by the circuit court's use of the previously unknown information. View "State v. Counihan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court vacating Defendant's 2005 conviction by the Mid-Moraine Municipal Court of operating while intoxicated (OWI) in violation of a City of Cedarburg ordinance, holding that the municipal court had power to adjudicate the allegation that Defendant operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated in violation of a municipal ordinance. When Defendant was again charged with OWI in 2016, Defendant collaterally attacked his 2005 conviction by proving that he had a 2003 OWI conviction in Florida. Defendant argued that, therefore, his 2005 OWI conviction was factually a second offense and outside of the municipal court's limited subject matter jurisdiction. The circuit court reversed, concluding that the 2005 judgment was void for lack of municipal court subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the 2005 municipal citations invoked the municipal court's subject matter jurisdiction, which was granted by Wis. Const. art. VII, 14; and (2) even if Wisconsin's statutory progressive OWI penalties were not followed in 2005, the municipal court would have lacked competence, not subject matter jurisdiction. View "City of Cedarburg v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's order denying Defendant's postconviction motion for resentencing, holding that Defendant did not forfeit his ability to challenge inaccurate information raised by the State at his sentencing but that the circuit court's reliance on the inaccurate information was harmless error. In his postconviction motion, Defendant argued for the first time that the circuit court violated his due process rights when it relied on inaccurate information at sentencing. The postconviction court concluded that the State introduced inaccurate information at the sentencing hearing, that the circuit court actually relied on the inaccurate information, but that the error was harmless. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Defendant forfeited his claim because he failed to object at the sentencing hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) the forfeiture rule does not apply to previously unknown, inaccurate information first raised by the State at sentencing; and (2) the circuit court's error in relying on the inaccurate information at sentencing was harmless. View "State v. Coffee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals imposing laches and denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that this Court will not revisit its ruling that the State may assert laches as a defense to a habeas petition and that the State established unreasonable delay and prejudice. In 2007, Defendant was convicted of reckless homicide. By 2010 or 2011, Defendant knew that his counsel failed to file a notice of intent to pursue post conviction relief as promised, causing Defendant to lose his direct appeal rights. In 2017, Defendant filed his habeas petition asserting ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to appeal. The State pled laches. The court of appeals imposed laches and denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that State properly asserted laches and that the court of appeals did not erroneously exercise its discretion by applying laches and barring relief. View "Wren v. Richardson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's order vacating Defendant's 1996 judgment of conviction for two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, party to a crime, and granting Defendant's postconviction motion for a new trial, holding that prejudice cannot be presumed when the entire trial transcript is unavailable. Under State v. Perry and State v. DeLeon, when a transcript is incomplete, a defendant is entitled to a new trial after making a facially valid claim of arguably prejudicial error. In making its ruling in this case the circuit court concluded that a new trial was necessary because there was no available transcript of Defendant's 1996 jury trial. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that Defendant was not entitled to a new trial because he did not meet his burden to assert a facially valid claim of error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Perry/DeLeon procedure applies whether all or a portion of a transcript is unavailable; and (2) no exception to the Perry/DeLeon procedure was available to Defendant because the transcript was unavailable due to Defendant's own delay. View "State v. Pope" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court suppressing the victim's identification of Defendant, holding that State v. Dubose, 699 N.W.2d 582 (Wis. 2005), was unsound in principle and is thus overturned and that the State satisfied its burden that the identification was reliable. The identification in this case began with law enforcement showing a single Facebook photo to the victim. Defendant argued on appeal that his suppression motion was correctly granted on the ground that the police utilized an unnecessarily suggestive procedure in violation of his due process rights as explained in Dubose. The Supreme Court overturned Dubose and held (1) due process does not require the suppression of evidence with sufficient indicia of reliability; (2) if a criminal defendant meets the initial burden of demonstrating that a showup was impermissibly suggestive, the State must prove under the totality of the circumstances that the identification was reliable even though the confrontation procedure was suggestive; and (3) under the totality of the circumstances of this case, the State satisfied its burden. View "State v. Roberson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing without prejudice criminal complaints against Autumn Lopez and Amy Rodriguez charging them with a single count of retail theft of items valued at more than $500 and less than $5,000, as parties to a crime, holding that the State may charge multiple acts of retail theft as one continuous offense pursuant to Wis. Stat. 971.36(3)(a). In dismissing the criminal complaints against the defendants the circuit court ruled that the State may not charge multiple acts of misdemeanor retail theft as a single felony. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State has the authority to charge multiple retail thefts under Wis. Stat. 943.50 as one continuous offense pursuant to section 971.36(3). View "State v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law