Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing the prior opinion and filed a new opinion affirming the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner's guilt-phase claims regarding his first degree murder convictions. The panel held that, although trial counsel was constitutionally deficient by failing to present a diminished capacity defense based on mental illness, petitioner did not suffer any prejudice. In this case, the evidence of petitioner's specific intent to rape and kill both victims was overwhelming when compared to the relatively weak diminished capacity evidence that counsel could have presented, but failed to present. The panel also held that trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to subpoena a specific witness nor was petitioner prejudiced. View "Hernandez v. Chappell" on Justia Law

by
Defendant appealed a special condition of his anticipated release restricting his relationship with his family. Defendant and his son were convicted and sentenced for defrauding the government through their business venture. The condition stated that defendant was permitted to have contact with his son only for normal familial relations but was prohibited from any contact, discussion, or communication concerning financial or investment matters except matters limited to defendant's own support. The Ninth Circuit reversed in part and held that the condition was unconstitutionally vague and struck the offending words "only for normal familial relations" from the condition. The panel held that the phrase was susceptible to many different interpretations and the district court could have, instead, specifically said that defendant and his son were prohibited from participating in illegal activities together. View "United States v. Hall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Law enforcement officers may not extend a lawfully initiated vehicle stop because a passenger refuses to identify himself, absent reasonable suspicion that the individual has committed a criminal offense. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained in a traffic stop. The panel held that Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), partially abrogated United States v. Turvin, 517 F.3d 1097 (9th Cir. 2008), and that the district court committed legal error by approving the duration of the stop based on Turvin, rather than Rodriguez. In this case, the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that defendant was out past his curfew or was under drinking age. Therefore, the extension of the traffic stop based on these concerns was an unlawful seizure. Furthermore, defendant's repeated refusal to identify himself did not constitute a failure to comply with an officer's lawful order under Arizona law. The evidence was only discovered because defendant was ordered out of the car as part of the unlawful extended seizure. View "United States v. Landeros" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for unlawful reentry into the United States after removal and remanded for resentencing. The Supreme Court has held that courts must consider both a crime's statutory elements and sentencing factors when determining whether an offense is punishable by a certain term of imprisonment. At issue was whether defendant's earlier offense was punishable under Washington by more than one year. The panel held that it can no longer follow its earlier precedents that eschewed consideration of mandatory sentencing factors. The panel held that Washington statutes prescribe a required sentencing range that binds the sentencing court. In this case, defendant's offense—as actually prosecuted and adjudicated—was punishable under Washington law by no more than six months in prison. Therefore, the district court erred by concluding that his offense was punishable by more than one year in prison. View "United States v. Valencia-Mendoza" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm, aggravated identity theft, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant raised a claim of duress, contending that she purchased the handgun with her identical twin sister's ID in violation of her probation because her ex-boyfriend threatened to harm her and her family. The panel joined the weight of authority in holding that expert testimony on Battered Woman Syndrome may be used by a defendant to support her duress defense and rehabilitate her credibility. Therefore, the panel held that the district court committed legal error in precluding defendant's expert witness from testifying and concluded that this decision was prejudicial to her defense. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding a video of defendant's entire jail interview. View "United States v. Lopez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for drug and firearms offenses. In this case, defendant was stopped while driving and subjected to a warrantless search of his person and car. A year later, a separate investigation linked defendant with a controlled substances distribution and the police conducted a warrant search of his home. The panel held that the search of defendant's person was constitutional based on the search incident to a lawful arrest exception to the warrant requirement. The panel reasoned that the justifications for the search incident to lawful arrest exception do not lose any of their force in the context of a search performed by an officer who has probable cause to arrest and shortly thereafter does arrest. So long as the search was incident to and preceding a lawful arrest—which is to say that probable cause to arrest existed and the search and arrest are roughly contemporaneous—the arresting officer's subjective crime of arrest need not have been the crime for which probable cause existed. The panel held that Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113 (1998), does not prevent a search incident to a lawful arrest from occurring before the arrest itself, even if the crime of arrest is different from the crime for which probable cause existed. The panel also held that the search of the defendant's vehicle was justified under the automobile exception and the warrant to search the house was valid. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying a sentencing enhancement for the use of body armor during the commission of the offense. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Although California Penal Code 211 robbery does not qualify as a crime of violence under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F), section 211 robbery nevertheless qualifies as a generic theft offense under section 1101(a)(43)(G), and thus is an aggravated felony under 18 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for illegal reentry where defendants were each convicted under section 211 and deported to Mexico after their prison terms were completed. View "United States v. Martinez-Hernandez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Ninth Circuit filed 1) an order granting a petition for panel rehearing, amending the opinion filed on September 14, 2017, which was previously withdrawn, and denying a petition for rehearing en banc; and 2) an amended opinion denying a petition for review of the BIA's decision. In the amended opinion, the panel held that petitioner's conviction for class one misdemeanor domestic violence assault under Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1203 and 13-3601 was a crime of domestic violence under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E) that rendered him removable. The panel held that the statute was divisible and, under the modified categorical approach, there was a sufficient factual basis to support that petitioner intentionally or knowingly caused any physical injury to another person. Furthermore, the domestic relationships enumerated under Arizona's domestic violence provision, Arizona Revised Statutes 3-3601(A), were coextensive with the domestic relationships described in section 1227(a)(2)(E)(i). Therefore, petitioner's misdemeanor domestic violence conviction was a crime of domestic violence under section 1227(a)(2)(E), and he was removeable. View "Cornejo-Villagrana v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's forfeiture order against defendant after she had pleaded guilty to attempted smuggling of ammunition from the United States into Mexico. Although the ammunition was subject to forfeiture, defendant had caused it to be transferred to a third party. The panel held that the district court properly ordered forfeiture of substitute property under 28 U.S.C. 2461(c) and 21 U.S.C. 853(p). In this case, defendant's acts and omissions caused the ammunition to be transferred to a third party and the forfeiture of $1,235 in the form of a money judgment was proper. View "United States v. Valdez" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of three petitions for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241 challenging the revocation of good time credits. Petitioner was disciplined under Bureau of Prisons Prohibited Acts Code 203, which prohibits threatening another with bodily harm or any other offense. The panel held that when read reasonably in the context of the prison setting, and limiting the phrase "any other offense" to criminal offenses or violations of BOP rules, Code 203 is sufficiently narrow and clear to protect inmates' First Amendment rights. View "Lane v. Swain" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law