FindLaw Opinion Summaries - Criminal

Daily criminal law and procedure case summaries, brought to you by FindLaw.com.

US v. Estrada

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirmed the denial of two defendants' motion to suppress incriminating statements intercepted by FBI wiretaps, in a mafia-related case challenging the validity of a wiretap authorized by the district court.
Posted: September 18, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Washington

(United States Second Circuit) - Remanded a sentence imposed for failing to register as a sex offender to delete a reference to polygraph testing. The defendant argued that the trial judge unlawfully modified his sentence by including in the written judgment a duty to submit to polygraph testing that was not mentioned during pronouncement of sentence. Agreeing that this was error, the Second Circuit remanded.
Posted: September 18, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Paul

(United States Second Circuit) - Remanded a defendant's sentence for robbery and firearms offenses with directions to recalculate the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines sentencing range without an enhancement for physical restraint.
Posted: September 18, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Powell

(Supreme Court of California) - Affirmed a death judgment on an automatic appeal from a defendant's conviction of a first-degree murder committed during a robbery.
Posted: September 17, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Cruz-Lopez

(California Court of Appeal) - Denied a motion to vacate revocation of probation, rejecting the defendant's contention that he was provided ineffective assistance of counsel.
Posted: September 14, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Cruz-Rivera

(United States First Circuit) - Affirmed convictions on federal carjacking and weapons counts. The defendant argued that his carjacking offense did not qualify as a crime of violence and thus could not serve as a predicate for the weapons counts. Finding no error, the First Circuit affirmed.
Posted: September 14, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Spoor

(United States Second Circuit) - Affirmed a conviction and sentence for production of child pornography and possession of child pornography. The defendant raised various arguments against his conviction and 360‐month sentence. Rejecting his contentions, the Second Circuit affirmed the judgment.
Posted: September 14, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Arebalos-Cabrera

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirmed a conviction of transporting over 10 kilograms of heroin and related drug-trafficking crimes. The defendant contended that the trial court should have granted his motions to suppress evidence. Disagreeing, the California Fourth Appellate District affirmed.
Posted: September 14, 2018, 8:00 am

In re Sims

(California Court of Appeal) - Granted a petition for writ of habeas corpus claiming that a prisoner had been incompetent to stand trial. The prisoner, a former attorney who was convicted of murdering her husband in 2006, alleged that her serious mental illness made her incompetent to stand trial at that time. Granting habeas relief, the California Fourth Appellate District remanded to the superior court with directions to hold an evidentiary hearing on the incompetency question.
Posted: September 14, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Franklin

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Vacated a mandatory minimum sentence imposed under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The defendant argued that he was not subject to a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm because his three Washington convictions could not constitute serious drug offenses. Persuaded, the Ninth Circuit vacated his sentence and remanded to the district court for resentencing.
Posted: September 13, 2018, 8:00 am

In re Palmer

(California Court of Appeal) - Vacated a parole board decision. A state prisoner, who had pleaded guilty in 1988 to kidnapping, argued that he was entitled to a new parole hearing because the Board of Parole Hearings failed to give sufficient weight to the fact that he was a minor when he committed his crime. On remand from the California Supreme Court, the California First Appellate District agreed with him and ordered the Board to hold a new parole hearing as soon as practicable.
Posted: September 13, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Lynch

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirmed a defendant's conviction of federal drug charges related to his ownership of a marijuana dispensary in California. The defendant contended that the district court made various errors, including trying to dissuade the jury from engaging in nullification. He also argued that his conviction was annulled by the U.S. Congress' recent appropriations rider prohibiting the federal prosecution of persons for activities compliant with state medical marijuana laws. In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed his conviction but remanded for further factual findings relating to the appropriations rider issue.
Posted: September 13, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Blackstone

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirmed a denial of habeas relief. A federal prisoner argued that his sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines must be vacated because, in light of Johnson v. US, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), his prior California convictions were no longer treated as crimes of violence. However, the Ninth Circuit held that his habeas motion was untimely.
Posted: September 12, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Kirsch

(United States Second Circuit) - Affirmed a union local president's conviction of racketeering conspiracy. A jury concluded that the union official had used threats of violence in an attempt to force contractors to hire members of his union. On appeal, the Second Circuit held that the government had failed to prove his involvement in a Hobbs Act conspiracy but upheld his conviction of racketeering conspiracy.
Posted: September 12, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Hubbard

(California Court of Appeal) - Vacated a sentence imposed on a three-strikes prisoner after he successfully filed a petition for resentencing under Proposition 36. The prisoner contended that the trial court should have considered all aspects of his sentence during his resentencing hearing. Agreeing, the California Third Appellate District remanded to the trial court to resentence him again.
Posted: September 11, 2018, 8:00 am

Workman v. Superintendent Albion SCI

(United States Third Circuit) - Remanded with instructions to grant a conditional writ of habeas corpus. The defendant, who was convicted of first-degree murder, contended that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by advising him incorrectly that he could not be convicted of murder, which led the defendant to reject a plea deal. Agreeing that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, the Third Circuit reversed the denial of habeas relief and remanded.
Posted: September 11, 2018, 8:00 am

Martinez v. Cate

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Reversed the denial of habeas relief. The defendant contended that his statements should not have been used against him at trial because when he invoked his right to counsel during custodial interrogation, the officer did not immediately cease questioning. Finding merit in his arguments, the Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of habeas relief and remanded.
Posted: September 11, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Ocean

(United States First Circuit) - Affirmed two men's convictions of a conspiracy to distribute cocaine base. The defendants raised a variety of constitutional and evidentiary arguments against their convictions. However, the First Circuit found no error in any of their claims of error.
Posted: September 11, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Renteria

(United States Third Circuit) - Affirmed a conviction on drug-trafficking charges. Raising a venue challenge, the defendant argued that he could not reasonably have foreseen that conduct in furtherance of the conspiracy would have occurred in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Rejecting his argument, the Third Circuit declined to adopt a reasonable foreseeability test for venue.
Posted: September 11, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Irizarry-Rosario

(United States First Circuit) - Held that the government did not breach its plea agreement with a defendant by arguing, at least implicitly, that the agreed-upon 60-month sentence for his weapons charge was too low. The defendant contended that prosecutors undercut the plea deal. Finding no breach of the parties' agreement, the First Circuit affirmed.
Posted: September 10, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Barrett

(United States Second Circuit) - Affirmed convictions for using firearms in the commission of violent crimes. The defendant argued that his firearm convictions must be vacated because the felonies in which the firearms were used -- substantive and conspiratorial Hobbs Act robbery -- were not crimes of violence within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. section 924(c)(3). Rejecting his argument, the Second Circuit affirmed his convictions.
Posted: September 10, 2018, 8:00 am

In re Edwards

(California Court of Appeal) - Invalidated California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation regulations implementing Proposition 57, which relates to the parole eligibility of nonviolent state prisoners. Petitioning for habeas corpus, a state prisoner contended that the regulations invalidly excluded him from Proposition 57 relief. Agreeing with his arguments, the California Second Appellate District struck down various provisions of the regulations.
Posted: September 7, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Pereira-Gomez

(United States Second Circuit) - Affirmed a sentence for illegal reentry into the U.S. after previously having been deported. The defendant, who pleaded guilty, contended that his sentence was improperly enhanced under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines because his prior New York conviction of attempted robbery in the second degree should not have been considered a crime of violence. Rejecting his argument, the Second Circuit upheld his sentence.
Posted: September 7, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Garcia-Lopez

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Held that a defendant should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to charges of illegally reentering the United States. The defendant argued that he should be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea because the Supreme Court's decision in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), undermined the basis for his indictment. Persuaded, the Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to permit him to withdraw his guilty plea.
Posted: September 7, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Gonzalez

(United States Third Circuit) - Affirmed a brother's and sister's convictions and life sentences for conspiracy to commit interstate stalking and cyberstalking resulting in death. The two siblings were indicted after their father shot and killed the brother's ex-wife and himself. On appeal, the siblings both disputed the constitutionality of the statutes under which they were convicted and also brought numerous other challenges to their convictions and sentences. However, the Third Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in all respects, in a case that the appellate panel said involved numerous issues of first impression.
Posted: September 7, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Freitas

(United States First Circuit) - Affirmed convictions of bulk-cash smuggling and currency structuring. The defendant argued that his convictions must be vacated because of erroneous evidentiary rulings, improper jury instructions, and other errors. Unconvinced by his arguments, the First Circuit affirmed.
Posted: September 6, 2018, 8:00 am

Anderson v. Gipson

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Held that a state prisoner was entitled to habeas corpus relief because he should have been given a competency hearing. The defendant, who was convicted of domestic violence and other crimes, argued that the trial court violated his due process rights by failing to order, sua sponte, a competency hearing, given the numerous signs of his mental incompetency, including his suicide attempt on the eve of trial. Agreeing, the Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the district court with instructions to grant the habeas corpus writ unless, within a reasonable time, the state grants a new trial.
Posted: September 6, 2018, 8:00 am

Pogosyan v. Appellate Division of Superior Court (the People)

(California Court of Appeal) - Held that prosecutors failed to bring misdemeanor charges to trial in a timely manner. The defendant argued that the case against him must be dismissed because his already-extended trial date had been continued to a date more than 10 days after the date set for trial. Agreeing with his contention, the California Second Appellate District granted his request for a writ of mandate directing the case against him to be dismissed.
Posted: September 5, 2018, 8:00 am

Preston v. Superintendent Graterford SCI

(United States Third Circuit) - Affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a defendant who alleged violation of his Confrontation Clause rights. The defendant, who was convicted of third-degree murder, challenged the use of prior statements of a witness who refused to answer any substantive questions on cross-examination. While agreeing that the defendant's rights were violated, the Third Circuit concluded that his Confrontation Clause claim was procedurally defaulted and there was no cause to excuse the default here.
Posted: September 5, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Carter

(California Court of Appeal) - Conditionally reversed the conviction of a man for a murder he committed at age 17. The man claimed that his 55-years-to-life sentence for a crime he committed as a youth was cruel and unusual punishment. On appeal, the California Third Appellate District vacated the sentence and remanded to the trial court, with directions to transfer the case to the juvenile court for a hearing to determine if the case would have been transferred to adult criminal court had the case originally been filed in juvenile court.
Posted: September 5, 2018, 8:00 am

In re Bennett

(California Court of Appeal) - Granted habeas relief to a defendant who was convicted of first-degree special circumstance murder while aiding and abetting a robbery. The defendant argued that his life sentence was improper because he was not a major participant in the robbery and did not act with reckless indifference to human life. The California Fourth Appellate District vacated his life sentence and remanded for resentencing, guided by People v. Banks.
Posted: September 5, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Peterson

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Vacated a sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm upon finding that the district court applied an improper sentence enhancement under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The defendant contended that it was error to treat his prior Washington first-degree robbery conviction as a crime of violence. Agreeing with him, the Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded for resentencing. However, the panel affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress the handgun evidence.
Posted: September 4, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Osotonu

(California Court of Appeal) - Remanded for further proceedings on a defendant's request to have his second-degree burglary conviction reclassified as misdemeanor shoplifting. The defendant, who had used explosives to blow open an ATM machine in the middle of the night, appealed from the denial of his petition under California Proposition 47 to resentence him to a misdemeanor on this count. The California First Appellate District agreed with him that the trial court had erred in its Proposition 47 analysis, and remanded for further proceedings.
Posted: September 4, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Kechedzian

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Reversed a conviction on the ground that a juror should have been excused for cause under an actual bias theory. The defendant, who was convicted on charges including aggravated identity theft, argued that the district court erred by refusing to dismiss a prospective juror who never unequivocally stated that she could be fair and impartial. Agreeing, the Ninth Circuit held that the challenged juror should have been excused for cause under an actual bias theory. The panel reversed and remanded for a new trial.
Posted: September 4, 2018, 8:00 am

Martin v. City of Boise

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Held that a city ordinance violated the Eighth Amendment by imposing criminal sanctions against homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors, on public property, when no alternative shelter was available to them. Six current or formerly homeless residents brought this suit alleging that the issuance of citations under the city's camping and disorderly conduct ordinances constituted cruel and unusual punishment, because they had no home or other shelter to go to. Agreeing with their arguments, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's summary judgment order.
Posted: September 4, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Raygoza-Garcia

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirmed that Border Patrol Agents had reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant's vehicle. The defendant asked the court to take judicial notice of evidence of "unproductive stops" in the same area, or stops from which no federal prosecutions arose, which he said showed that federal agents were not properly applying the reasonable-suspicion standard. Rejecting his arguments, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence of narcotics found as a result of the stop.
Posted: August 31, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Tapia

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirmed the denial of a defendant's motion to withdraw his no-contest plea that led to convictions on conspiracy and cannabis charges. The defendant contended that he should be allowed to withdraw his plea because his lawyer had failed to advise him of the precise immigration consequences. Rejecting his contention, the California Fifth Appellate District found substantial evidence that the defendant had been advised of the consequences of his plea.
Posted: August 31, 2018, 8:00 am

Lucero v. Holland

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Held that a defendant's Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause rights were not violated by the introduction of a non-testifying codefendant's statement. In a petition for habeas relief, the defendant challenged prosecutors' use of a handwritten gang memo detailing an attack on an inmate in which the defendant allegedly participated. Rejecting the defendant's arguments, the Ninth Circuit found no constitutional violation. However, on a different issue, the appellate panel concluded that there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had possessed a shank or sharp instrument in jail. The panel thus affirmed in part and reversed in part.
Posted: August 31, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Accredited Surety and Casualty Co.

(California Court of Appeal) - Held that a bail bond company did not have to forfeit $50,000 bail because the defendant had appeared in court. The company insisted that bail was exonerated by operation of law upon the defendant's appearance in court, even though the judge had continued the case to a later session to secure the bail bondsman's attendance, by which time the defendant was nowhere to be found. Agreeing with the company and reversing the trial court, the California First Appellate District held that the forfeiture must be vacated.
Posted: August 30, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. C.B.

(Supreme Court of California) - Held that juvenile offenders were not entitled to have their DNA samples removed from the California Department of Justice's databank. Two juveniles who were declared wards of the court based on felonious conduct urged that their DNA samples and profiles must be erased from the databank, because their offenses were now classified as merely misdemeanors by virtue of Proposition 47, passed in 2014. Rejecting their argument, the California Supreme Court held that Proposition 47 did not authorize the databank expungement they sought, and that equal protection did not compel it.
Posted: August 30, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Clark

(United States Third Circuit) - Affirmed the suppression of evidence on the ground that a police officer impermissibly extended a traffic stop. The defendant vehicle passenger, who was discovered to have a handgun and later indicted for unlawful possession of it, argued that the traffic stop was unlawfully extended beyond the time when it should have ended. Agreeing, the Third Circuit affirmed the granting of his motion to suppress the handgun evidence.
Posted: August 30, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Rodriguez

(California Court of Appeal) - Reversed an inmate's conviction of assault with a deadly weapon and other offenses arising out of his involvement in a melee with some correctional officers. The inmate argued that the prosecutor committed the form of prejudicial misconduct known as vouching by arguing to the jury that the correctional officer witnesses would not lie because lying would destroy their careers and lead to their prosecution for perjury, even though no evidence of such consequences was presented. Agreeing, the California Fifth Appellate District reversed the defendant's conviction.
Posted: August 29, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Martin

(California Court of Appeal) - Held that the defendant was not entitled to have her conviction of felony conspiracy to commit petty theft reclassified as misdemeanor shoplifting. The People appealed from an order granting the defendant's petition to resentence her for a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Reversing the trial court, the California Second Appellate District held that Proposition 47 did not authorize the reduction of a felony conspiracy conviction to misdemeanor shoplifting.
Posted: August 29, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Bell

(United States Fourth Circuit) - Affirmed a conviction and sentence on drug-trafficking charges. The defendant lodged numerous challenges on appeal, including that the district court erred by admitting inculpatory statements obtained in violation of the defendant's Miranda rights and incorrectly imposed a mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Unpersuaded by his arguments, the Fourth Circuit affirmed in a 2-1 decision.
Posted: August 28, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Flores

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirmed a conviction of attempting to reenter the U.S. after being deported. Moving to dismiss the indictment, the Mexico citizen contended that he never should have been deported in the first place because his California law conviction of receiving stolen property was not categorically an aggravated felony for purposes of immigration law. Rejecting his arguments, the Ninth Circuit upheld his conviction.
Posted: August 28, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Le

(United States Second Circuit) - Affirmed convictions of violating the Biological Weapons Anti‐Terrorism Act of 1989 and related federal statutes. The defendant, who used the internet to order the lethal toxin ricin for the stated purpose of murder, argued that principles of federalism precluded construing the Act to reach purely local criminal conduct such as common law murder, and he also challenged the constitutionality of the Act both on its face and as applied. Rejecting his arguments, the Second Circuit upheld his convictions.
Posted: August 27, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Gonzales

(Supreme Court of California) - Held that a defendant who was convicted of several counts of forgery was eligible to have those felonies reclassified as misdemeanors. The defendant argued that his forgery felonies were eligible for reclassification under Proposition 47 even though he was also convicted of an entirely unrelated offense of identity theft. Agreeing, the California Supreme Court remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings on his request for resentencing.
Posted: August 27, 2018, 8:00 am

People v. Bilbrey

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirmed that prosecutors violated a defendant's right to a speedy trial. After the defendant petitioned for habeas relief and the trial court ordered a new trial, the prosecutors appealed from the new-trial ruling and did not seek to set a trial date or bring the case to trial. In an amended opinion, the California First Appellate District affirmed dismissal of certain criminal charges because of a violation of the speedy trial right.
Posted: August 27, 2018, 8:00 am

US v Hoskins

(United States Second Circuit) - Affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Second Circuit agreed with the district court that the government cannot use theories of conspiracy or complicity to charge a defendant with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act if he is not in the category of persons covered by the statute. However, they reasoned that the defendant could conspire with foreign nationals even though he was never in the United States.
Posted: August 24, 2018, 8:00 am

US v Santillan

(United States Second Circuit) - Affirmed. Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs. He brought this appeal challenging the denial of his motion to suppress physical evidence based on issues with the stop and search. The court concluded that the police officer had reasonable suspicion to extend the stop and, although some evidence was improperly seized during a frisk, it would have been inevitably discovered and suppression was not warranted.
Posted: August 24, 2018, 8:00 am