Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion challenging the validity of a conviction for use of a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). In this case, defendant walked into a pharmacy, pointed a gun at an employee, and demanded all of the pharmacy's OxyContin. The panel held that armed robbery involving controlled substances described in 18 U.S.C. 2118(c)(1) is a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A). The panel explained that, because robbery involving controlled substances by force or violence or intimidation is a crime of violence, so too is armed robbery involving controlled substances, which requires proof of all the elements of unarmed robbery involving controlled substances. View "United States v. Burke" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The State appealed the district court's grant of federal habeas relief to petitioner, a state prisoner sentenced to death for the sexual assault, abuse, and felony murder of a four year old girl. The Ninth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(2), which precludes evidentiary hearings on claims that were not developed in state court proceedings, did not prohibit the district court from considering the evidence adduced at the Martinez v. Ryan hearing to determine the merits of petitioner's underlying ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claim. The panel explained that when a district court holds an evidentiary hearing to determine whether a petitioner's claim is excused from procedural default under Martinez, it may consider that same evidence to grant habeas relief on the underlying claim. The panel also held that the district court did not err in determining that the assistance provided by petitioner's counsel was constitutionally deficient where he failed to perform an adequate pretrial investigation into whether the victim's injuries were sustained during the time she was with petitioner, and petitioner has demonstrated prejudice due to counsel's failures. In regard to Count Four, this failure only affected the jury's determination that petitioner had acted intentionally or knowingly, but not his underlying guilt on the lesser included offense of reckless misconduct. Therefore, the panel affirmed the grant of habeas relief, but vacated the district court's remedy, remanding for further proceedings. View "Jones v. Shinn" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion challenging the validity of a conviction for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). The panel held that assault with a dangerous weapon described in 18 U.S.C. 113(a)(3) is a crime of violence under section 924(c)(3)(A). The panel explained that the least violent form of each offense is the threat to use violent physical force through the use of a dangerous weapon that reasonably caused a victim to fear immediate bodily injury, which under precedent, necessarily entails at least the threatened use of violent physical force to qualify the offenses as crimes of violence under section 924(c)(3)(A)'s elements clause. View "United States v. Gobert" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of an ICE order reinstating petitioner's prior removal order. Determining that it had jurisdiction, the panel held that petitioner timely challenged the order reinstating his prior removal order. Based on In Matter of Farinas, 12 I. & N. Dec. 467 (BIA 1967), the panel held that petitioner has shown a gross miscarriage of justice. In this case, there was no valid legal basis for petitioner's removal order at the time of its execution in 2008 because the conviction on which it had been based had been expunged in 1999. Therefore, the panel held that a collateral attack on petitioner's prior removal order was appropriate in this case. The panel also held that there was no diligence requirement that limits the time during which a collateral attack on that deportation or removal order may be made based on a showing of gross miscarriage of justice. The panel did not reach petitioner's due process and regulatory arguments. View "Vega-Anguiano v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's determination that petitioner was removeable. The panel held that petitioner's prior conviction for first degree unlawful imprisonment under Hawaii Revised Statutes 707-721(1) is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) that made him removable. Applying the categorical approach, the panel explained that the Hawaii statute requires proof that the defendant knew that his actions would expose another person to a risk of serious bodily injury, and the panel's decision accords with the decisions of its sister circuits. View "Fugow v. Barr" on Justia Law

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After defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, he appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence, as well as conditions of his supervised release. The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction, holding that the search of defendant's home was lawful. However, the panel held that three conditions of supervised release -- requiring defendant to support his dependents and meet other family responsibilities, that he work regularly at a lawful occupation, and that he notify third parties of risks that may be occasioned by his criminal record or personal history or characteristics -- were unconstitutionally vague under United States v. Evans, 883 F.3d 1154 (9th Cir. 2018). The panel vacated the supervised release conditions and remanded with instructions to impose whatever alternative conditions the district court deemed appropriate. The panel explained that rewriting a provision of a sentence would exceed its authority under 18 U.S.C. 3742(f)(1), and thus it did not need to consider how section 3742(f)(1) affected its authority to modify a sentence without remanding. View "United States v. Ped" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit dismissed defendant's appeal of the district court's order imposing a probation condition requiring her to register as a sex offender pursuant to the Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act (SORNA). The panel held that the text and structure of SORNA's residual clause make it clear the clause requires the application of a noncategorical approach to determine whether a conviction is for an offense involving "any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense against a minor." In this case, the record supported the district court's determination that defendant committed a "sex offense" as defined by SORNA and thus she was required to register as a sex offender under that law. The panel stated that defendant had adequate notice; the district court did not delegate the Article III judicial power in imposing the sentence; her sentence was legally imposed; and the appellate waiver in her plea agreement was enforceable. View "United States v. Dailey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for distribution and possession of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. Because there was no physical intrusion into defendant's residence when FBI agents used wireless tracking software to detect the signal strength of the address of defendant's wireless device, the panel applied the Katz test in holding that the agents did not engage in a search under the Fourth Amendment. The panel held that defendant lacked any expectation of privacy in the emission of the signal strength of the MAC address emanating from outside his apartment. Furthermore, even if defendant harbored a subjective expectation of privacy, that expectation was not one society was prepared to recognize as reasonable. The panel held that the district court did not err in denying defendant’s request for a Franks hearing, because defendant did not present any evidence that the agent acted knowingly, intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth in preparing the affidavit. The court also held that none of the alleged false statements or omissions materially affected the probable cause determination. View "United States v. Norris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for attempted transport of aliens and rejected his claim of prosecutorial misconduct. Specifically, defendant alleged that the prosecution committed misconduct by introducing evidence of, and commenting on, his post-arrest silence at trial. However, the panel held that defendant was not silent in response to an agent's questioning on the topic of his coconspirators, and it was not error for the prosecution to introduce evidence of, and comment on, that part of the interrogation including argument characterizing defendant as being evasive about other people involved in smuggling. Therefore, the prosecution properly relied on admissible evidence to rebut the theory that defendant had always intended to turn aliens he picked up over to border patrol. View "United States v. Garcia-Morales" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for receipt of child pornography. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence, under Federal Rule of Evidence 414, of defendant's prior state conviction for sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree. In this case, the term "child molestation" encompassed both the crime for which defendant was previously convicted and the present charge, and the prior conviction was relevant. After applying the balancing factors in the LeMay test, the panel held that the probative value of the evidence substantially outweighed its unfair prejudice. Finally, the district court did not err in rendering this evidentiary decision before it had been presented at trial. View "United States v. Thornhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law