FindLaw Opinion Summaries - Criminal

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

US v. Brown

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Vacating the sentence and remanding for resentencing in a case where the district court determined a prior conviction for drug conspiracy qualified as a 'controlled substance offense' because the Washington law included conduct that would not be covered under federal law, so the district court erred in determining that this constituted a controlled substance offense.
Posted: January 16, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Stepanets

(United States First Circuit) - Reversing and Remanding an order dismissing counts in an indictment charging three defendants involving the dispensing of misbranded drugs in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because the judge's analysis involved several out-of-place factual assumptions that led to an incorrect finding regarding the sufficiency of an indictment.
Posted: January 12, 2018, 8:00 am

P. v. Almeda

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming the convictions of two defendants for first degree murder because the court did not err in its introduction of one defendant's jailhouse confession and by failing to instruct on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter because his confession was made to a fellow prisoner, not to a government agent, and the instruction as to manslaughter was not justified given the insufficient evidence to support it.
Posted: January 12, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Steed

(United States First Circuit) - Affirming the sentence in the case of a man convicted for possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and heroin who the district court held did not qualify as a career offender following a detailed analysis of the predicate offenses.
Posted: January 12, 2018, 8:00 am

P. v. Saldana

(California Court of Appeal) - Reversing the judgment in a criminal case because the police created an atmosphere equivalent to a formal arrest when they questioned a suspect in isolation behind closed doors in a police station interrogation room, triggering Miranda, and the court prejudicially erred by admitting evidence obtained in this context.
Posted: January 12, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Depue

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirming the conviction and sentencing of a defendant for fraud and conspiracy in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme because the dismissal of a juror who felt they were poisoned, perhaps by another juror, was not improper, and sentencing errors were disregarded because the defendant had waived the right to appeal them.
Posted: January 11, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Hulen

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirming the district court's judgment revoking the defendant's supervised released based on the defendant's admissions during mandatory sex offender treatment because a proceeding to revoke supervised release is not a criminal case for the purposes of the Fifth Amendment.
Posted: January 10, 2018, 8:00 am

In Re Robinson

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming a decision by the superior court relating to confiscated items taken from him while detained in a state hospital under California's Sexually Violent Predator Act that granted him the right to mail the disputed items at his own expense to the party of his choosing outside the hospital because the indefinite retention of his property was a due process violation, but also affirming that he had no entitlement to the return of the property.
Posted: January 10, 2018, 8:00 am

Rivera v. Thompson

(United States First Circuit) - Reversing and remanding the conviction of a man after a jury trial on account of the violation of his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel when his lawyer failed to move to suppress inculpatory statements made to police while in custody and failed to introduce at trial evidence promised in the opening statement that a third party committed the stabbing at issue.
Posted: January 9, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Smathers

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming a district court determination denying the defendant's presentence motion to eliminate his remaining restitution obligation by amounts recovered by his crime victim in its civil litigation against other persons because the decision that the defendant had the burden of proving the victim had been fully compensated was within the court's discretion.
Posted: January 9, 2018, 8:00 am

US v. Clark

(United States First Circuit) - Affirming the district court's denial of a motion to suppress drug evidence found during a traffic stop over claims the officer unreasonably extended the stop, violating Fourth Amendment rights, and challenging the ruling that drugs found during an unlawful patdown would not be excluded under the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule in a case where a passenger in a stopped car held no ID, gave contradictory identifying information, and was confused for a similarly named person with outstanding warrants.
Posted: January 9, 2018, 8:00 am

In Re Jonathan V.

(California Court of Appeal) - Reversing the imposition of a restraining order on a juvenile defendant because the prosecution's notice of their intent to seek the restraining order was given orally moments before a trial setting conference and ruled upon at the hearing over defense objections, which constituted inadequate notice and did not provide a meaningful opportunity to be heard.
Posted: January 9, 2018, 8:00 am

Tharpe v. Sellers

(United States Supreme Court) - Granting a petition for writ of certiorari and vacating a Court of Appeals denial of a certificate of appealability relating to the decision of the district court to deny a motion to reopen federal habeas corpus proceedings in the case of a man convicted of murder and sentenced to death whose jury included a juror who later provided a sworn affidavit that indicated their prejudicial view of black people because the district court and appeals court denials, which rested on the ground that it was indisputable among reasonable jurists that having a racist on the jury did not prejudice the defendant.
Posted: January 8, 2018, 8:00 am

P. v. Holzmann

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming a probation order in the case of a man convicted of stalking his ex-wife when he pleaded no-contest, a deal that included the dismissal of several misdemeanor trespass charges involving his trespass on the Apple campus in Cupertino, because the condition that he stay away from Apple in his probation was not unconstitutionally vague simply because it didn't specify a particular distance, holding that the condition need only express the obligation it imposes in ordinary and understandable terms.
Posted: January 5, 2018, 8:00 am

Villavincencio v. Sessions

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Granting the petition for review of a Board of Immigration Appeals decision and concluding that a Mexican national convicted of Nevada's conspiracy to possess drugs crime was not removable for a controlled substance act because the law is overbroad and indivisible.
Posted: January 5, 2018, 8:00 am

P. v. Financial Casualty and Surety, Inc.

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming the judgment that forfeiture should not have been declared at an earlier point in criminal proceedings where a surety posted a bond for a misdemeanor defendant whose attorney appeared on their behalf on multiple occasions, including at probation violation hearings, because an attorney can appear on behalf of their misdemeanor defendant at probation violation hearings.
Posted: January 5, 2018, 8:00 am

P. v. Tua

(California Court of Appeal) - Largely affirming criminal convictions, but reversing the sentence because the court held that prior serious felony enhancements imposed on a determinate sentence must follow the mode of sentencing imposed on at least one of the determinate counts.
Posted: January 4, 2018, 8:00 am

In Re K.J.

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming the juvenile court's decision to sustain a petition alleging that a kid possessed a weapon on school grounds over a motion by the defense to suppress the evidence in a case where an anonymous student tip led the principal to remove the defendant from class for a search by a police officer assigned as the school resource officer because the tip, which included a SnapChat video of the student in class displaying a semiautomatic gun and clip, provided reasonable suspicion for the search.
Posted: January 3, 2018, 8:00 am

Conservatorship of the Person and Estate of Lee C.

(California Court of Appeal) - Vacating an order disqualifying county counsel for its failure to follow invalid orders issued by the court in a contentious case relating to whether or not a man charged with corporal injury to a cohabitant and found incompetent to stand trial qualified for Murphy conservatorship because the court could review the Public Guardian's decision for abuse of discretion, but could not compel the filing of a petition for conservatorship and must take the case to trial.
Posted: December 29, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Aldana

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirming misdemeanor convictions for attempting to enter the United States 'at any time and place other than as designated by immigration officers' as to two individuals because their attempted entry a couple miles away from the designated port of entry wasn't close enough to get around the law's language.
Posted: December 29, 2017, 8:00 am

Hernandez v. Chappell

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Reversing the district court's denial of a writ of habeas corpus as to the guilt phase claims relating to first degree murder, vacating the convictions and remanding because if counsel had performed effectively by investigating and presenting evidence of the defendant's diminished mental capacity defense based on mental impairment there was a reasonable probability at least one juror would have had a reasonable doubt about his ability to form the requisite mental state for first degree murder.
Posted: December 29, 2017, 8:00 am

Davis v. Superior Court of Solano County

(California Court of Appeal) - Granting a peremptory writ of mandate directing the superior court to set aside and vacate an order denying the defendant's motion to dismiss the case against him for failure to hold a preliminary hearing within 10 court days from the date that criminal proceedings were reinstated following the suspension of criminal proceedings to conduct a competency hearing because the denial of such a hearing was a Penal Code violation.
Posted: December 29, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Hicks

(Supreme Court of California) - Affirming a court of appeal judgment affirming the trial court's refusal to offer an instruction that the defendant had been previously convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter in connection with the collision at the center of the proceedings, making it clear that regardless of their verdict on a murder charge he would be held accountable for his conduct, because the refusal to provide this instruction did not result in prejudicial error.
Posted: December 28, 2017, 8:00 am

Apelt v. Ryan

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Vacating a district court judgment granting a writ of habeas corpus on the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing and affirming the denial of other forms of relief challenging the conviction and death sentence for first degree murder because although there were representation issues relating to sentencing the deficiencies were not prejudicial.
Posted: December 28, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Frierson

(Supreme Court of California) - Reversing the lower court's decision and holding that the People must establish beyond a reasonable doubt the ineligibility for resentencing of a convict seeking the modification of their sentence under the Three Strikes Reform Act.
Posted: December 28, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Rivera Cruz

(United States First Circuit) - Affirming that a plea agreement where the government argued for a sentence consistent with the representations made in the plea agreement had adequate consideration to support its enforcement.
Posted: December 22, 2017, 8:00 am

In Re C.D.

(California Court of Appeal) - Reversing one of two counts of assault on a police officer by a juvenile who ran a stolen car at a cop because the offense can be committed two separate ways.
Posted: December 22, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Alejandro Rosado

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming the application of the statutory maximum in the case of a man convicted of violating the terms of his supervised release because the court exercised reasonable sentencing procedure and arrived at a substantively reasonable result.
Posted: December 22, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Gallardo

(Supreme Court of California) - Affirming the increased sentence in a criminal conviction as a serious felony and a strike under the Three Strikes law because an assault conviction counts as a serious felony if it was committed with a deadly weapon and, in the instant case, the conviction involved a robbery in which the defendant was armed with a firearm.
Posted: December 21, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Garthorne

(United States Fourth Circuit) - Determining that the sentencing court in a criminal case did not plainly err in designating a defendant a career offender did not mean that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to that designation because the standards for review of the decisions do not necessarily result in equivalent outcomes, but that in the present case the failure to do so resulted in ineffective assistance and the sentence was vacated and the case remanded for resentencing.
Posted: December 21, 2017, 8:00 am

Stuckey v. US

(United States Second Circuit) - Affirming a district court ruling denying a motion and upholding the sentence in the case of a man who was held to be subject to sentence enhancement on account of prior NY convictions for first degree robbery, which the court held to satisfy the intent requirement for the application of the enhancement of the Armed Career Criminal Act under the 'elements' clause.
Posted: December 20, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Familetti

(United States Seventh Circuit) - Affirming the conviction of a man for attempted sex trafficking of a minor and child pornography offenses in the case of a man whose interrogation when the FBI showed up at his home wasn't a violation of the Fifth Amendment because he wasn't in custody at the time.
Posted: December 20, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Wells

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Reversing and remanding for a new trial the case of a man convicted of multiple counts of murder and firearms offenses because of many irregularities at trial including government interference with the status of the defendant's representation, the use of criminal profile testimony as evidence of guilt, and prosecutorial misconduct, which tipped the scales of justice such as to render the trial fundamentally unfair.
Posted: December 19, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Sanchez

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming the dismissal of charges for contempt of court against a man who was among 12 gang members named in proceedings because he was given no prior notice of the hearing or an opportunity to be heard on the question of whether he was a covered gang member, violating his right to procedural due process.
Posted: December 19, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Harris

(United States Fourth Circuit) - Affirming that the district court retained jurisdiction to revoke supervised release for a man a second time and that the court could properly prescribe the maximum sentence permitted on revocation in the case of a man convicted for cocaine crimes who continued to break the law during supervised release.
Posted: December 19, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Perez

(California Court of Appeal) - Striking a gang enhancement and remanding for resentencing in the case of a man, responsible for a shooting, who was a validated and heavily tattooed gang member, but whose act did not appear to involve gang activity because there was insufficient evidence to support the enhancement, but affirming the admission of texts between the shooter and the victim's girlfriend and the finding that four attempted murders were willful, deliberate, and premeditated.
Posted: December 18, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Aiken

(United States First Circuit) - Reversing and remanding a district court ruling that a man had a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment in a motel room where he was present at the time of a police search of the premises because the occupant, allegedly the guest of a guest of the person who rented the room, distinguishing an overnight guest from a drug trafficker present in a hotel room that happens to fall asleep for a bit, and examining other evidence that undermined the defendant's claim to privacy.
Posted: December 18, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Valbrun

(United States First Circuit) - Affirming the conviction of a man for drug-trafficking in a case where a substantial portion of the evidence came from wiretapped phone conversations because the introduction of the drug kingpin's testimony interpreting coded drug talk, which was not an abuse of discretion and the defendant's dispute about the meaning of some words was an issue of the weight of the testimony, not its admissibility, and a court instruction about willful blindness was not in error because circumstantial evidence alone was sufficient to permit a factfinder to infer guilty knowledge.
Posted: December 15, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Richards

(California Court of Appeal) - Reversing the conviction of a Black Lives Matter protester who was involved in a scuffle to prevent the arrest of a suspect during the demonstration for attempting to take another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer by means of a riot because the court failed to offer the jury instruction on the lesser included offense of rescue where the defendant claimed she was unaware that a lawful arrest was taking place.
Posted: December 15, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. West, Sr.

(United States First Circuit) - Affirming a man's conviction for four federal offenses connected with the commission of two bank robberies who contended that the convictions must be vacated due to the admission of a portion of video from the perspective of a police officer pulling the defendant over, at which point the defendant fled, because significant portions of the video showing a high speed pursuit were redacted by the court and the remaining bit was not prejudicial and was within the court's discretion to permit.
Posted: December 15, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Santiago Reyes

(United States First Circuit) - Affirming the sentence of a criminal defendant because he argued that the district court should have dismissed a count in light of caselaw for which a motion to vacate sentence on the same grounds was pending, meaning that his motion to dismiss was premature and barred by the mandate rule, but instructing the court to address the pending motion as soon as practicable.
Posted: December 15, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Jones

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Reversing the district court denial of a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence because Arizona's armed robbery law does not qualify as a violent felony under either the force clause or the enumerated felonies clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act.
Posted: December 15, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Ricci

(California Court of Appeal) - Reversing the trial court's decision that a defendant convicted of both a felony and misdemeanor in the same case could not avail himself of a statute permitting felons or misdemeanants who are granted probation to petition the court for release from the penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction after their probationary period is terminated because the Attorney General conceded that the felony conviction did not disqualify a defendant from seeking relief as to the misdemeanor conviction in the same case.
Posted: December 14, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Lucero

(California Court of Appeal) - Affirming the trail court's denial of a motion for a new trial in the case of a serially absent defendant who had secured an opportunity to have his motion heard due to the ineffective assistance of counsel upon the motion's first presentation, but when he failed to appear for the new hearing, represented by the same lawyer as previously, the court held that the lawyer's previous ineffective assistance afforded sufficient grounds for the appointment of a new lawyer, but that the trial court needn't do so unless and until the defendant requested.
Posted: December 14, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Graves

(United States Third Circuit) - Affirming the conviction and sentence of a man as a career offender for the unlawful possession of a firearm because the officer's observations relating to the individual, made immediately following having heard gunshots, provided reasonable suspicion for a frisk, the removal of drugs from his pocket during the frisk didn't run afoul of the Fourth Amendment because it occurred before the officer had determined that there was no weapon and the individual's priors did qualify for career offense enhancement.
Posted: December 13, 2017, 8:00 am

P. v. Tennard, Jr.

(California Court of Appeal) - Remanding the conviction of a man for domestic battery which, on account of prior convictions, resulted in a 25 year to life sentence, in order to correct the abstract of the judgment to in the section under which presentence custody credits were awarded, but otherwise affirmed.
Posted: December 13, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Ketchen

(United States First Circuit) - Affirming the conviction of a man for distributing the drug known as 'bath salts' because precedent issued after the entry of his guilty plea but before his sentencing did not result in error because of the court's determination that the defendant was properly appraised of the charges and the strong circumstantial evidence that he knew the substance was illegal.
Posted: December 13, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Werle

(United States Ninth Circuit) - Affirming the district court's imposition of a sentence enhancement on account of prior convictions for felony harassment because such a conviction necessarily includes the threatened use of physical force against another person and is categorically a crime of violence.
Posted: December 13, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Scully

(United States Second Circuit) - Vacating and remanding the conviction of a man on a number of charges involving misbranded drugs because the court erred in excluding evidence relating to the defendant's advice-of-counsel defense.
Posted: December 13, 2017, 8:00 am

US v. Patterson

(United States First Circuit) - Affirming the conviction and sentence of a man for five counts of bank robbery because the district court did not err in refusing to hold a hearing regarding warrants to install GPS tracking devices or suppress the evidence obtained from them because an eyewitness to a prior robbery who identified a car and license plate provided sufficient probable cause and his arrest while casing a bank also had enough evidence to support his detention and search.
Posted: December 13, 2017, 8:00 am