Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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The issue this interlocutory appeal presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review centered on whether evidence seized by federal Border Patrol agents during a roving patrol (pursuant to their authority to conduct warrantless searches under 8 U.S.C. 1357) was admissible in a state criminal proceeding when that search did not comply with Article 11 of the Vermont Constitution. Defendants Phillip Walker-Brazie and Brandi-Lena Butterfield argued that because the overwhelming purpose of Vermont’s exclusionary rule was to protect individual liberty, the Supreme Court should apply the exclusionary rule and suppress the evidence pursuant to Article 11. To this the Supreme Court agreed, holding that such evidence is inadmissible in Vermont criminal proceedings. View "Vermont v. Walker-Brazie" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Corey Patrick was convicted by jury for multiple drug and weapons offenses. On appeal, Patrick challenged : (1) the trial court’s decision to permit law enforcement witnesses to testify about the lengthy drug investigation leading to his arrest; (2) one of his convictions for possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, arguing there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for the simultaneous possession of a firearm and a controlled substance because the State failed to satisfy the “possession” element; and (3) the second of his weapons charges should have been vacated as duplicative of his other conviction under Count Two of the Indictment for possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited (weapon and prior felony conviction). After review, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Patrick’s convictions except for his conviction under Count Four of the October 7, 2019 Indictment (weapon and drugs together). The Count Four conviction duplicated his conviction under Count Two (weapon and prior felony conviction) and violated the constitutional prohibition against Double Jeopardy. Thus, judgment was reversed and remanded to the Superior Court to vacate his conviction and sentence under Count Four of the October 7, 2019 Indictment. View "Patrick v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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After being spotted in a stolen car, Sanders fled from the police. He led them on a car chase, then on a foot chase. An officer eventually caught up to Sanders, who continued to struggle. An officer then commanded a police dog to bite Sanders’s leg. Sanders was finally subdued and charged with resisting arrest. Sanders ultimately pled “no contest” and filed a civil rights action alleging the use of the police dog was excessive force.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his claims barred by Heck v. Humphrey, under which a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim must be dismissed if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence unless the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. While a defendant cannot be convicted of resisting arrest if an officer used excessive force at the time of the acts resulting in the conviction, Sanders could not stipulate to the lawfulness of the dog bite as part of his plea and then use the same act to allege an excessive force claim under section 1983. View "Sanders v. City of Pittsburg" on Justia Law

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In 1995, Demetrulias was sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing of Miller. Demetrulias claimed that he killed Miller in a struggle initiated by Miller when Demetrulias visited his home to collect a $40 debt. The prosecution maintained that Demetrulias stabbed Miller in the commission of a robbery.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of habeas corpus relief. Even if Demetrulias’s argument that the trial court violated his due process rights by allowing the prosecution to introduce victim character evidence in a preemptive attack on Demetrulias’s assertion of self-defense. is not barred by procedural default, the admission of the statements did not amount to constitutional error. The challenged testimony was brief and non-inflammatory and did not seek to portray Demetrius as evil but portrayed the victims as non-violent, Demetrulias also argued that if the court had given a claim-of-right instruction, the jury would have had a legal basis for finding that Demtrulias intended to collect a debt, not to rob Miller, thereby negating the specific intent to prove robbery, and would have acquitted Demetrulias of the sole special circumstance charge. Any error in failing to give the instruction was harmless as was any error in failing to give a requested instruction of voluntary manslaughter based on heat-of-passion. The California Supreme Court could reasonably have concluded that trial counsel made a reasonable strategic decision in not presenting evidence of organic brain damage and mental health diagnoses. View "Demetrulias v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Golf Village owns, maintains, and administers a 900-acre planned community in Powell, including one of 11 separate lots in a commercial development. A 2003 “Declaration of Private Roads” refers to the use of private roads by each commercial lot owner, its employees, customers, and invitees. In 2010, one lot was transferred to the city for a municipal park. In 2018, the City began using three streets without Golf Village’s permission, removed a curb, and built a construction entrance. Golf Village sued (42 U.S.C. 1983), claiming that Powell has taken its property without just compensation or due process.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Golf Village did not establish the loss of its right to exclude; it could terminate the alleged taking by building a gate at the private street's entrance to ensure that everyone who drives on those streets is an invited guest. Under Golf Village’s analysis, any time the government took an action that made a property owner’s property more popular, regardless of what actions the property owner could take, there would be a taking. Any increased traffic, which may lead to additional maintenance costs, is merely a government action outside the owner’s property that causes consequential damages within. There are no material allegations that Golf Village cannot use and enjoy the private roads to the extent that it did before the City’s actions. View "Golf Village North, LLC v. City of Powell" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Daniel David Egli twice pled guilty to possessing child pornography and has violated his subsequent conditions of supervised release on four occasions by, among other things, possessing unauthorized computers, engaging in unauthorized Internet usage, and viewing and possessing both adult and child pornography. After the second violation, the district court sentenced Egli to a lifetime of supervised release, and after the fourth violation, it imposed a special condition absolutely prohibiting him from using computers and the Internet. Egli failed to object to that special condition below but challenged it on appeal. The Tenth Circuit found no plain error in the district court’s decision for plain error. "Although this Court has previously cautioned that absolute Internet bans are generally invalid, we have left open the possibility of imposing such a ban in a case involving extreme or extraordinary circumstances. Accordingly, and in light of Egli’s lengthy history of violating less restrictive conditions of supervised release, we cannot say the district court plainly erred in imposing an absolute ban." View "United States v. Egli" on Justia Law

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A United States military court-martial convicted Petitioner-Appellant Clint Lorance of murder (and a variety of lesser offenses) for actions he took while leading a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan. After exhausting his direct appeals, Lorance filed a federal habeas petition challenging his convictions. Lorance appealed the district court’s dismissal of that petition. The sole issue, and a matter of first impression for the Tenth Circuit's consideration was whether Lorance’s acceptance of a full and unconditional presidential pardon constituted a legal confession of guilt and a waiver of his habeas rights, thus rendering his case moot. The Court concluded Lorance’s acceptance of the pardon did not have the legal effect of a confession of guilt and did not constitute a waiver of his habeas rights. Despite Lorance’s release from custody pursuant to the pardon, he sufficiently alleged ongoing collateral consequences from his convictions, creating a genuine case or controversy and rendering his habeas petition not moot. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Lorance v. Commandant" on Justia Law

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In 1995, petitioner Timothy Haag was sentenced to mandatory life without parole for a crime he committed at the age of 17. In 2018, at a Miller-fix resentencing conducted pursuant to RCW 10.95.030, the resentencing court expressly found that “Haag is not irretrievably depraved nor irreparably corrupt.” Yet the court resentenced Haag to a term of 46 years to life; the earliest that he could be released is at the age of 63. Haag sought review by the Washington Supreme Court, arguing that the trial court erroneously emphasized retribution over mitigation and that his sentence amounted to an unconstitutional de facto life sentence. To this, the Supreme Court agreed, holding the resentencing court erred because it gave undue emphasis to retributive factors over mitigating factors. The Court also held Haag’s 46-year minimum term amounts to an unconstitutional de facto life sentence. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for resentencing. View "Washington v. Haag" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a district court’s order granting Jennifer Warren’s (“Jennifer”) motion to suppress evidence. Boise Police Department Officer Matthew Lane stopped a GMC Yukon for a canceled and expired registration. The vehicle was driven by Steven Warren (“Steven”), and Jennifer was in the passenger seat. Steven told officers that Jennifer was his wife. Lane ran the identification information supplied by both parties, and the data system alerted there was a civil protection order and a criminal no-contact order in place preventing Steven from having contact with Jennifer. At this point, the officer abandoned the original purpose of the traffic stop in order to investigate whether Steven was in violation of either order by being with Jennifer in the car. To separate Jennifer from Steven, a second officer, Andrew Morlock, asked Jennifer to step out of the vehicle. Morlock asked Jennifer about some bulges in her pockets, and she pulled out a lighter, some money, and two syringes wrapped in tissue. Lane ran his drug-detection dog around the vehicle, and the dog alerted. A search of the car turned up a suspected marijuana joint and a tin holding small containers of a waxy substance, one of which later tested presumptively positive for marijuana. Jennifer’s purse was also in the vehicle and contained pills later identified as hydrocodone. During the car search, dispatch confirmed that the criminal no-contact order against Steven was active. Steven was taken into custody; Jennifer was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, and a subsequent search of her person revealed another syringe and a baggie of methamphetamine hidden in her bra. The State charged Jennifer with possession of methamphetamine, possession of hydrocodone, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia, as well as a persistent violator enhancement. The district court concluded the officers had no lawful basis to continue detaining Jennifer, a passenger in a vehicle, after officers abandoned the original purpose of the traffic stop in order to investigate whether the driver was in violation of a criminal no contact order barring him from being with Jennifer. On appeal, the State argued that reasonable suspicion a driver is engaged in criminal conduct not only allows officers to extend a traffic stop and detain the driver, but it also includes the continued lawful detention of all passengers. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court concurred and reversed the district court's suppression order. View "Idaho v. Warren" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court dismissing Petitioner's appeal from the judgment of the habeas court denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner could not prevail on his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.Petitioner was convicted of robbery in the first degree. Later, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations prior to his trial. The appellate court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to meet his burden of proving that his attorney did not adequately advise him of his maximum sentencing exposure if convicted of the lesser included offense of robbery in the third degree. View "Moore v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law