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Case Update

Five decisions from SCOTUS this week, four of them involving criminal law.  (The fifth involved class actions, a subject so dear to my heart that I just can't bring myself to discuss it.)  The most contentious was JDB v. North Carolina, a 5-4 decision holding that the age of a juvenile can be considered in determining whether he believes he's "in custody" for Miranda purposes.  As I'd explained when I reviewed the oral argument in the case, the main concern centered on whether the decision would lead to the police having to guess the age of the suspect in order to gauge whether warnings were necessary.  The majority hedged somewhat on this point, stating that a minor's age will not always be relevant, but will be when the suspect is obviously very young or when the police officers knows that he's a minor.

Davis v. United States found more agreement among the justices.  Davis was a passenger in a car, and was arrested for giving the police a false name.  After placing him in the cruiser, the cops searched his jacket, which was still in the car, and found a revolver.  Davis' dismay at the 18-year prison sentence he received for being a felon in possession of a firearm dissolved a few months later, when the Supreme Court decided Arizona v. Gant and held that police couldn't search the vehicle incident to an arrest if the defendant didn't have access to the car or there was no probable cause to believe that evidence of the crime would be found in the vehicle.  The 11th Circuit nonetheless affirmed Davis' conviction, and the Supreme Court affirms by a 7-2 vote.  While normally a new decision will be applied to "pending" cases -- those presently awaiting trial or on direct appeal -- here it didn't:  since the purpose of the rule is to deter illegal police conduct, no purpose would be served, says the Court, by applying it in a situation where the police conduct was not then illegal.  Even Obama's two appointments, Sotomayor and Kagan, signed off on this extension of the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule, making me feel old; I can remember when there actually was such a thing as the "liberal" wing in the Supreme Court.

Nobody dissented in Bond v. United StatesBond, displeased that her husband had gotten her best friend pregnant, spread some chemicals on the latter's doorknob and car door, hoping to cause a rash.  It instead resulted in Bond being charged, convicted, and sentenced to six years in prison for violating a statute Congress had passed implementing the United States' obligations under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.  She appealed, claiming that using the statute in this was an improper use of Federal power, in that it infringed upon the powers reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment.  In one of the more bizarre decisions I've seen, the 3rd Circuit rejected her claim on the grounds that only a state official had standing to assert a 10th Amendment issue.  The Court unanimously reverses (oral argument discussed here), spending 14 pages -- about 13½ more than necessary -- explaining why that was stupid.

The last decision, Tapia v. United States, involved the odd claim by a defendant that a prison sentence did not lead to rehabilitation.  Tapia had been convicted of smuggling aliens, and the judge gave her 51 months instead of 36 because he believed that the longer sentence would allow her to qualify for the prison's drug rehabilitation program.  Tapia pointed out that Federal sentencing laws specify that "imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation."  Thus, instead of the government arguing that a judge wrongly gave less time because he thought the defendant could be rehabilitated in prison, we have the defendant arguing that she was wrongly given more time for the same reason.  The Court agrees, again unanimously.

Down in Columbus, the Supreme Court resolved a question which has vexed practitioners lo these many years:  in determining the 180-day time period for filing a petition for post-conviction relief, does the time run from when a videotape recording is filed with the appellate court, or will only a certified, written transcript suffice?  In State v. Everette, the court decides the latter.  The importance of this decision is only heightened by the fact that petitions for post-conviction relief are granted with the frequency of executive pardons for child molesters.

On to the courts of appeals...

Criminal.  In accepting plea to admission of probation violation, juvenile court need only comply with JuvR 29, not CrimR 11, 6th District holds... Failure of judge to impose separate sentences for two crimes, even when sentence is community control sanctions, means journal entry isn't final, appealable order, says 8th District... 2nd District rules that excessive force is an affirmative defense to resisting arrest; state not required to show that excessive force was not used in order to prove that arrest was lawful... Plea to 9-year sentence for state crime with assurance that it will be run concurrent to 10-year sentence Federal crime isn't unknowing or involuntary when defendant finds out he'll finish his Federal time after 8 years, rules 8th District;   "concurrent" sentence means that you're serving both sentences at once, but isn't guarantee that when you're finished doing time on one, you get out on the other as well... Trial court erred in denying motion for expungement solely on basis of the nature of the offense, without setting forth findings balancing the respective interests of the state and defendant, 5th District rules... 8th District holds that while drug possession and trafficking merge as allied offenses under Johnson, possession of criminal tools does not... 9th District rules that State need not demonstrate surprise in order to cross-examine witness called by the court pursuant to EvidR 614... Homelessness does not excuse sex offender from registration requirements, says 12th District... Trial court erred in ordering restitution for unindicted offenses where written plea didn't indicate agreement to pay them, says 3rd District...

Civil.  8th District rules that re-publication of defamatory matter on Internet through Google search 20 years after paper originally published article, then retracted it, does not revive statute of limitations for defamation...

But you said... In State v. Lloyd, the defendant pled to a variety of theft offenses.  At the time of the plea, the court indicated that "if you went to prison in this matter you would be eligible for judicial release" and told him that it "would consider judicial release."  A month later, the court sentenced defendant to 12 years in prison, which of course rendered him ineligible for judicial release.  Everybody agreed that the defendant had been misinformed, but the State argued that the defendant couldn't show that he wouldn't have entered the plea if he hadn't been given the information about judicial release.  The 6th District rejects that argument, vacating the plea because "the record in this case clearly reflects that appellant's guilty pleas were predicated on a belief that he would be eligible for judicial release."

One of the reasons that the court felt comfortable concluding that judicial release factored into the defendant's calculations:  Lloyd was 78 years old.

Line of the week.  From the concurring opinion in State v. Sullivan, regarding what the grand jury considered in returning an indictment:  "Even if the hoary aphorism that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich were true, such a result should still make clear that the grand jury considered what the sandwich allegedly did."

Bullshit traffic stop of the week.©  In State v. Lattimore, the 1st District upholds a traffic stop based on defendant's failure to put on his turn signal when pulling his vehicle away from the curb.


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