Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for first-degree intentional homicide, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims that the trial court erred in denying two pre-trial evidentiary orders.At issue was the denial of Defendant's motion to suppress the admission of incriminating cell phone data and the circuit court's discretionary decision to admit evidence from a Fitbit device allegedly worn by the victim's boyfriend at the time of the homicide. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) even if some constitutional defect attended either the initial download of the cell phone data or subsequent accessing of the cell phone data, there was no law enforcement misconduct that would warrant exclusion of that data; and (2) the circuit court permissibly exercised its discretion in admitting the Fitbit evidence where no expert was required and the State sufficiently authenticated the records from Fitbit. View "State v. Burch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals determining that Wisconsin's incapacitated driver provision contained within the implied consent statute, Wis. Stat. 343.305, was unconstitutional, holding that the incapacitated driver provision is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.The court of appeals determined that the incapacitated driver provision is unconstitutional but additionally determined that the application of the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule allowed for the admission of blood test evidence that Defendant sought to suppress. The Supreme Court agreed with the judgment of the court of appeals, holding (1) the incapacitated driver provision is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied under the facts of this case, and the evidence resulting from Defendant's blood draw need not be suppressed. View "State v. Prado" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court imposing a child pornography surcharge for fourteen images of child pornography and the order denying plea withdrawal, holding that there was no error.Appellant was charged with fourteen counts of possession of child pornography. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Appellant pled guilty to six counts of possession of child pornography. At sentencing, the circuit court sentenced Appellant to a term of imprisonment and imposed a $500 child pornography surcharge, pursuant to Wis. Stat. 973.042(2), for each of the images of child pornography for which Appellant was charged. Appellant filed a postconviction motion seeking to have the circuit court allow him to withdraw his guilty plea, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in imposing the child pornography surcharge and the order that denied plea withdrawal. View "State v. Schmidt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court granting Defendant's motion to suppress certain statements that he made during a post-polygraph interview, holding that the statements were admissible.In granting Defendant's motion to suppress, the circuit court concluded that the statements Defendant made during his post-polygraph interview were involuntary. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statements were voluntary and admissible because the interview was separate from the polygraph examination and because the statements were not the product of police coercion. View "State v. Vice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of first-degree reckless homicide and ordering a new trial, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to instruct the jury on perfect self-defense and second-degree reckless homicide.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals correctly concluded that the circuit court erred by failing to instruct the jury on perfect self-defense and second-degree reckless homicide and that Defendant was entitled to a new trial on remand; and (2) the court of appeals erred in concluding that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying the admission of other-acts evidence. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's order expunging three of Defendant's convictions, holding that the circuit court erred in expunging Defendant's convictions because he failed to satisfy the Department of Correction's (DOC) "conditions of probation" for all three convictions.At issue before the Supreme Court was the correct interpretation of the phrase "conditions of probation" in Wis. Stat. 973.015(1m)(b). On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that he did not need to satisfy DOC's conditions of probation in order for the circuit court to expunge all three of his convictions. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the phrase "conditions of probation" in the statute means conditions set by both DOC and the sentencing court; and (2) section 973.015(1m)(b) does not give circuit courts discretionary authority to declare that an individual has violated "conditions of probation," including DOC-imposed conditions. View "State v. Lickes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of ten counts of possession of child pornography, holding that Defendant could not be held to a stipulation he entered in circuit court because he entered it by relying on a procedure that was invalid.Defendant pleaded not guilty to the offense of possession of child pornography but stipulated to inculpatory facts supporting each element of the offense and explicitly agreed to a finding of guilt at a circuit court hearing at which no witness testified. The circuit court convicted Defendant and sentenced him to three years' initial confinement. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for Defendant to choose whether to enter a plea or proceed to trial, holding (1) the occurrence in the circuit court was neither a guilty plea made in the customary mode more a court trial; (2) trials based on stipulated facts and a stipulated finding of guilt are not permissible in Wisconsin; and (3) because the procedure below was invalid, Defendant could not be held to the stipulation. View "State v. Beyer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress certain firearm evidence on the grounds that the police officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant's vehicle, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, the stop was lawful.At issue was whether the law enforcement officer in this case has a reasonable suspicion that Defendant had committed or was about to commit a crime. The court of appeals concluded that the stop was unlawful. The Supreme Court disagreed and reversed, holding that, considering the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable law enforcement officer knowing what the officer in this case knew and seeing what he saw would reasonably suspected that Defendant was engaged in a drug transaction, and therefore, the investigatory stop of Defendant's vehicle complied with the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Genous" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's judgment of conviction of Defendant for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and remanded with instructions to grant Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the seizure of Defendant was unlawful because the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity.Defendant's conviction arose from a search of her vehicle. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in denying her motion to suppress because the search violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) Defendant was seized when the officer returned to her vehicle after running a records check, withheld her driver's license, and continued to question her and her passenger in order to hold her until a drug-sniff dog arrived; and (2) the seizure was unlawful because Defendant did not have a reasonable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity at the time he seized her. View "State v. VanBeek" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the ruling of the circuit court concluding that Defendant's request for a judicial substitution under Wis. Stat. 801.58(1) was untimely filed, holding that Defendant's substitution request was timely.This case stemmed from proceedings to commit Defendant as a sexually violent person under Wis. Stat. ch. 980. The morning of the probable cause hearing, Defendant's counsel filed a request under section 801.58(1) to substitute the circuit court judge. The circuit court denied the request, finding it to be untimely. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's substitution request was timely because his motion to adjourn was not a "preliminary contested matter" according to the accepted legal meaning of the phrase and because the circuit court heard no other such matter before Defendant filed his request. View "State v. Matthews" on Justia Law