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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from warrantless searches of his cell phone by a Customs and Border Patrol official. Applying United States v. Cotterman, 709 F.3d 952 (9th Cir. 2013) (en banc), the panel held that manual cell phone searches may be conducted by border officials without reasonable suspicion but that forensic cell phone searches require reasonable suspicion. The panel clarified Cotterman by holding that "reasonable suspicion" in this context means that officials must reasonably suspect that the cell phone contains digital contraband. Furthermore, cell phone searches at the border, whether manual or forensic, must be limited in scope to a search for digital contraband. In this case, the panel held that the officials violated the Fourth Amendment when their warrantless searches exceeded the permissible scope of a border search. Therefore, most of the evidence from the searches of defendant's cell phone should have been suppressed. Finally, the panel held that defendant's Brady claims were unpersuasive. Because the panel vacated defendant's conviction, the panel did not reach his claim of prosecutorial misconduct. View "United States v. Cano" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The panel held that defendant's prior conviction for delivery of methamphetamine in violation of Oregon law does not qualify as a "controlled substance offense" under USSG 2K2.1(a)(4)(A) and 4B1.2(b). The panel rejected defendant's argument that the Oregon statue sweeps more broadly than the federal controlled substance offense because it criminalizes soliciting the delivery of methamphetamine. Therefore, the district court should have applied a base level offense of 20 under section 2K2.1(a)(4)(A). Accordingly, the panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Crum" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's successive habeas corpus petition challenging the Idaho Supreme Court's 2008 decision that his execution was not barred under an Idaho law prohibiting the execution of intellectually disabled offenders. Petitioner sought relief under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), which held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of intellectually disabled persons. The panel held that the record did not establish that the state court's adjudication of petitioner's Atkins claim resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, or was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. Therefore, the district court properly denied habeas relief because section 2254(d) was not satisfied. Finally, the panel noted that its decision did not preclude the Idaho courts from reconsidering these questions in light of Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. 701 (2014); Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S. Ct. 2269 (2015); and Moore v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 1039 (2017), which were all decided after the state court's decision View "Pizzuto v. Blades" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's determination, in a precedential decision, that even though petitioner was a lawful permanent resident, she was inadmissible under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(13)(C)(v) and 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), because she had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. In this case, the crime was Arizona solicitation to possess marijuana for sale. The BIA rejected petitioner's contention that, by referencing "attempt or conspiracy," section 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) excludes crimes of solicitation even if they otherwise constitute crimes involving moral turpitude. Applying Chevron deference, the panel affirmed the BIA's determination that even though petitioner was a legal permanent resident, she was removable because she was inadmissible to the United States when she presented herself at the border. Furthermore, a conviction in Arizona for solicitation to possess at least four pounds of marijuana for sale constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude for purposes of section 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), and thus petitioner was inadmissible. The panel rejected petitioner's contention that, by referencing only "attempt or conspiracy," section 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) excluded crimes of solicitation, and the panel saw no reason to deviate from Barragan-Lopez v. Mukasey, 508 F.3d 899 (9th Cir. 2007). View "Gonzalez Romo v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of a personal money judgment against defendant in the amount that corresponds to the proceeds of the offenses for which defendant was convicted. In this case, defendant was convicted of fraudulently obtaining Social Security, Medicaid, and food-stamp benefits. The panel held that its rationale for allowing district courts to impose personal money judgments remained undisturbed by the reasoning in Honeycutt v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1626 (2017), which held that 21 U.S.C. 853 does not authorize courts to impose joint and several liability for forfeiture judgments. The panel explained that Honeycutt's holding did not address whether personal money judgments are permissible in the criminal forfeiture context. The panel held that such personal money judgments were necessary to avoid undermining Congress' objectives in enacting mandatory forfeiture sanctions, pointing in particular to the substitute property provision found in section 853(p). The panel noted that Honeycutt does require clarification that personal money judgments must be enforced within the constraints imposed by the applicable criminal forfeiture statutes. View "United States v. Nejad" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendants brought these consolidated appeals seeking to reduce their sentences under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2), which allows a court to reduce in certain circumstances a previously imposed sentence, for drug-related offenses. The Ninth Circuit held that the Supreme Court's decision in Hughes v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1765 (2018), and this circuit's decision in United States v. Padilla-Diaz, 862 F.3d 856 (9th Cir. 2017), were fully compatible and that Padilla-Diaz, which upheld USSG 1B1.10(b)(2), remains binding precedent. The panel explained that the question considered in Hughes was entirely different from those addressed in Padilla-Diaz. Hughes did not consider at all the import of section 1B1.10(b)(2)(A), the provision limiting sentence reductions to the lowest term recommended by the revised Guidelines range. Furthermore, Hughes did not conclude that general sentencing policies constrain section 3582(c)(2) proceedings, and nothing in Hughes addressed inter-defendant sentencing uniformity more generally, much less the sentence reduction limitation at issue here. Therefore, the panel was bound by Padilla-Diaz's conclusion regarding the interplay between the Guidelines policy statement contained in section 1B1.10(b)(2) and section 3582(c)(2). Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of defendants' motions. View "United States v. Hernandez-Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2). The panel held that a district court may not sua sponte raise a defendant's waiver of the right to file a section 3582(c)(2) motion. In this case, the government waived defendant's waiver of his right to file a section 3582(c)(2) motion by failing to raise it in the district court, and the district court abused its discretion by raising the waiver sua sponte. View "United States v. Sainz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied an application for authorization to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas corpus petition. The panel held that the Supreme Court has not made Riley v. California, 573 U.S. 373 (2014), which held that a warrant is generally required to search a cell phone's data, retroactive. Therefore, the applicant has not made a prima facie showing that his application to file a section 2254 petition met the requirements of 18 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(A). View "Young v. Pfeiffer" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition for habeas corpus relief challenging petitioner's capital sentence. Petitioner's conviction for first degree murder and related burglary and kidnapping counts stemmed from his armed robbery of a jewelry store. The panel agreed with, and followed, the district court's application of Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011), and based its decision only on the record before the California Supreme Court (including the trial court record) and did not consider the evidence presented in the federal court evidentiary hearing. The panel held that there were reasonable grounds to support the denial of relief by the state court on petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. In this case, the California Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply federal law by determining that counsel's performance was not constitutionally deficient for failing to investigate mitigation evidence regarding petitioner's mother and petitioner's mental impairments. Furthermore, petitioner was not prejudice by counsel's performance. View "Livaditis v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting defendant's motion to suppress evidence found on a laptop seized under a State of California warrant and searched under a federal warrant. The panel held that, although there was insufficient probable cause to seize the laptop, the special agent's affidavit supporting the state warrant contained sufficient information to render his reliance on the warrant reasonable. The panel also held that, even assuming that the 21-day delay between the seizure of the laptop pursuant to the state warrant and the search of the laptop pursuant to the federal warrant was unreasonable, suppression was not warranted where the agent's delay did not evince negligence, let alone deliberate and culpable misconduct. In this case, the agent's good faith efforts complied with the Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment and there was no indication that he believed he was depriving defendant of a legitimate possessory interest. View "United States v. Jobe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law