Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant based on qualified immunity grounds in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that defendant failed to disclose evidence that would have cast serious doubt on the star prosecution witness in plaintiff's trial. The panel held that the record demonstrated as a matter of law that defendant withheld material impeachment evidence under Brady v. Maryland and Giglio v. United States, and raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether defendant acted with deliberate indifference or reckless disregard for plaintiff's due process rights. The panel also held that the law at the time of the 1997–98 investigation clearly established that police officers investigating a criminal case were required to disclose material, impeachment evidence to the defense. Finally, the panel held that the district court abused its discretion by striking the declaration of plaintiff's police practices expert. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Mellen v. Winn" on Justia Law

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Battery committed with the use of a deadly weapon under Nevada Revised Statute 200.481(2)(e)(1) is a crime of violence as defined in 18 U.S.C. 16(a). The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for illegal reentry into the United States. The panel held that defendant's prior battery conviction under Nevada law qualified as a crime of violence and thus his initial deportation was not unlawful. View "United States v. Guizar-Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief challenging a sentencing enhancement for a prior nonjury juvenile conviction and for a gang-related crime. Petitioner argued that the evidence supporting the gang enhancement was constitutionally insufficient under Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), and that the enhancement for his nonjury juvenile conviction violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). The panel held that it was objectively unreasonable to conclude that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find the robbery was committed "in association with" a gang; but it was not objectively unreasonable to conclude that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find the robbery was committed "for the benefit of" a gang. The panel also held that the juvenile conviction claim was procedurally barred, and the sentencing enhancements based on nonjury juvenile convictions did not violate any clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court. View "Johnson v. Montgomery" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the parties disputed the maximum term of official detention that can be imposed upon revocation of juvenile delinquent supervision when the juvenile is more than 21 years old at the time of the revocation proceeding. Defendant argued that the duration of previously ordered terms of official detention is always subtracted from the maximum term prescribed by 18 U.S.C. 5037(c)(2). The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's imposition of the 34 month term of official detention following revocation of defendant's juvenile delinquent supervision. The panel held that the text and structure of section 5037(d)(5), its legislative history, and the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act's motivating purpose supported defendant's construction of section 5037(d)(5). In this case, defendant was entitled to credit for "any term of official detention previously ordered," and thus the maximum term of official detention that could have been imposed upon revocation of his juvenile delinquent supervision was 14 months. View "United States v. Juvenile Male" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision finding petitioner ineligible for cancellation of removal. The panel held that the BIA's determination that witness tampering under Oregon Revised Statutes 162.285 was a crime involving moral turpitude did not warrant deference under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944), because the agency's analysis directly conflicted with circuit precedent, and was inconsistent both internally and with prior BIA decisions. The panel held that Oregon Revised Statutes 162.285 was not categorically a crime involving moral turpitude because the statute captures conduct that was neither fraudulent nor base, vile, or depraved. Although the statute was divisible, the subsection that formed the basis for petitioner's conviction was likewise not a categorical match for a crime involving moral turpitude. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Vasquez-Valle v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit held that the BIA erred in finding that petitioner's conviction for child abuse and neglect under Nevada law was categorically a "crime of child abuse" under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(i). The panel held that it was bound by this circuit's opinion in Martinez-Cedillo v. Sessions, No. 14-71742, 2018 WL 3520402 (9th Cir. July 23, 2018), which deferred to the BIA's interpretation, in Matter of Soram, 25 I. & N. Dec. 378 (BIA 2010), that the generic crime of child abuse includes acts and omissions that create at least a "reasonable probability" that a child will be harmed. In this case, the Nevada statute was broader than the federal generic crime and there was a realistic probability that Nevada could prosecute conduct under its statute that fell outside the scope of the federal generic crime. Therefore, the panel granted the petition for review of the BIA's determination that petitioner was removable. View "Alvarez-Cerriteno v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress in a case where he was convicted of four counts of making false statements on immigration documents. Defendant sought to suppress recordings of conversations with his wife and his wife's testimony describing the conversation. The panel held that the district court erred by extending the sham marriage exception to the marital communications privilege. The district court did not make a finding about whether the marriage was irreconcilable when the IRS recorded defendant's statements, which would render the marital communications privilege inapplicable. Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to rule on the issue of irreconcilability. Finally, the panel held that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding that defendant understood the documents he signed, and the panel declined to reach defendant's remaining arguments. View "United States v. Fomichev" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted petitioner's motion to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas corpus petition, challenging California's second-degree felony murder rule as unconstitutionally vague under Johnson v. United States. Determining that petitioner had standing and his claim was not effectively moot, the panel held that petitioner made a prima facie showing that his claim relied on the new and retroactively applicable rule in Johnson. The panel concluded that there was a plausible position that Johnson did not limit its constitutional rule to certain features of the Armed Career Criminal Act's residual clause that the State contends was absent from California's second-degree felony murder rule. View "Henry v. Spearman" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction in violation of 36 C.F.R. 34.5(b)(21), for being dangerously under the influence of alcohol while he was in the El Portal Administrative Site adjacent to Yosemite National Park. The panel held that the dangerous-drinking-prohibition in 36 C.F.R. 2.35 applied to the Site, whether or not it was a "park area." The panel explained that, even if the Site was not a "park area," the panel must read section 34.5 with the necessary changes to make it applicable to the Site. View "United States v. Nature" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction for unlawful reentry into the United States in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1326. The panel held that defendant's prior 2008 and 2011 removals were fundamentally unfair and thus could not serve as a predicate removal for purposes of section 1326. The panel held that because the 2008 removal proceeding was in absentia, defendant satisfied the exhaustion and deprivation-of-judicial-review requirements for bringing a collateral attack on the validity of that removal. Furthermore, it was error to remove defendant for a crime of domestic violence under Immigration and Nationality Act 237(a)(2)(E)(i) based on his California battery conviction because circuit precedent established that California battery was not a categorical crime of violence. The panel also held that the due process defects in the 2008 removal proceeding infected the 2011 expedited removal for presenting invalid entry documents. In this case, the 2011 expedited removal order was also fundamentally unfair because it violated the process due to lawful permanent residents. View "United States v. Ochoa-Oregel" on Justia Law