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The Court of Appeal affirmed Defendant’s conviction of reckless driving, holding that there was sufficient evidence that Defendant acted with wanton disregard for safety, that there was no trial error warranting reversal, and that any error in imposing Defendant’s sentence was harmless. Defendant was convicted of reckless driving after causing a head-on collision that resulted in significant injuries to two victims. The superior court sentenced Defendant to an aggregate term of six years incarceration - the high term of three years for the conviction plus three years for a great-bodily-injury enhancement, to run consecutively. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding (1) substantial evidence supported Defendant’s conviction; (2) the superior court did not deny Defendant his constitutional right to present a defense by barring him from cross-examining an officer about the details of other accidents near the collision site; (3) a great-bodily-injury enhancement may attach to felony reckless driving; (4) the superior court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to impose the high term in this case; and (5) any error in assessing Defendant’s presumptive probation eligibility was harmless. View "People v. Escarcega" on Justia Law

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Zuatney Gonzalez pleaded guilty to two criminal counts of possession of a financial transaction card in Bannock County, Idaho, and thereafter requested credit for time served while she was jailed in Canyon County on similar, but unrelated charges. At issue in this appeal was a question of the proper amount of credit for time served to which Gonzalez was entitled. The Idaho Supreme Court focused its decision on whether Gonzalez’s position was properly raised and ruled upon by the district court. Because the Supreme Court held that it was not, Gonzalez’s appeal failed. However, the Court recognized some confusion arose over how it addresses a new legal argument made on appeal in light of Idaho v. Garcia-Rodriguez, 396 P.3d 700 (2017), and Ada County Highway District v. Brooke View, Inc., 395 P.3d 357 (2017). In this opinion, the Court took the opportunity to clarify the rule announced in those cases and explain why it reached two very different decisions in each case. View "Idaho v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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Mark Garnett was an overnight guest in the residence of an absconded felony probationer, Tamara Brunko. Probation officers searched the residence, including an attached storage room, and found Garnett’s locked backpack containing a stolen firearm. Garnett, a felon himself, was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He sought to suppress the evidence found in the backpack, but the district court denied his motion because it determined that while he had standing to challenge the search of the backpack, the officer had reasonable suspicion that Brunko owned, possessed, or controlled the backpack. Following a jury trial, Garnett was found guilty. Garnett appealed his conviction, arguing that the district court should have applied a reasonable belief standard and that had it done so the motion to suppress would have been granted. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction. View "Idaho v. Garnett" on Justia Law

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Dhinsa is serving six life sentences for multiple convictions concerning his leadership role in a racketeering enterprise. Dhinsa’s habeas corpus petition challenged two convictions, on counts of murdering a potential witness (18 U.S.C. 1512(a)(1)(C). The Second Circuit vacated the denial of relief. Although habeas relief would not affect the length of his incarceration, Dhinsa had standing based the $100 special assessment that attached to each conviction--a concrete, redressable injury. Dhinsa did not, however, satisfy the jurisdictional prerequisites for a 28 U.S.C. 2241 habeas petition under section 2255(e)'s savings clause, which is available if “the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Dhinsa asserted his innocence under the Supreme Court’s 2011 “Fowler” decision, which requires the government to show in a section 1512(a)(1)(C) prosecution that the murder victim was “reasonably likely” to have communicated with a federal official had he not been murdered. Dhinsa’s extensive racketeering enterprise represents a type of criminal activity that is commonly investigated and prosecuted by federal officials. A juror could reasonably find that each of Dhinsa’s victims was “reasonably likely” to have communicated with federal officials. Because this test is jurisdictional, however, the court erred in denying the petition on the merits and should have dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. View "Dhinsa v. Krueger" on Justia Law

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NRP made preliminary arrangements with the City of Buffalo to build affordable housing on city‐owned land and to finance the project in part with public funds. The project never came to fruition, allegedly because NRP refused to hire a political ally of the mayor. NRP sued the city, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, the mayor, and other officials The district court resolved all of NRP’s claims in favor of defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed. NRP’s civil RICO claim against the city officials is barred by common‐law legislative immunity because the mayor’s refusal to take the final steps necessary to approve the project was discretionary legislative conduct, and NRP’s prima facie case would require a fact-finder to inquire into the motives behind that protected conduct. NRP’s “class of one” Equal Protection claim was properly dismissed because NRP failed to allege in sufficient detail the similarities between NRP’s proposed development and other projects that previously received the city’s approval. NRP’s claim for breach of contract was properly dismissed because the city’s “commitment letter” did not create a binding preliminary contract in conformity with the Buffalo City Charter’s requirements for municipal contracting. NRP fails to state a claim for promissory estoppel under New York law, which requires proof of “manifest injustice.” View "NRP Holdings LLC v. City of Buffalo" on Justia Law

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Timbs pleaded guilty in Indiana state court to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft. The police seized a Land Rover SUV Timbs had purchased with money he received from an insurance policy when his father died. The state sought civil forfeiture of Timbs’s vehicle, charging that it had been used to transport heroin. Observing that Timbs had recently purchased the vehicle for more than four times the maximum $10,000 monetary fine assessable against him for his drug conviction, the trial court denied that request. The Indiana Supreme Court reversed. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated. The Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which incorporates and renders applicable to the states Bill of Rights protections “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,” or “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” The Excessive Fines Clause carries forward protections found in sources from Magna Carta to the English Bill of Rights to state constitutions from the colonial era to the present day. Excessive fines undermine other liberties. They can be used to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. In considering whether the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates a Bill of Rights protection, the question is whether the right guaranteed—not every particular application of that right—is fundamental or deeply rooted. The Excessive Fines Clause is incorporated regardless of whether application of the Clause to civil in rem forfeitures is itself fundamental or deeply rooted. View "Timbs v. Indiana" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that Moore did not have an intellectual disability and was eligible for the death penalty. The Supreme Court vacated the decision. The appeals court reconsidered but reached the same conclusion in 2018. The Supreme Court again reversed, noting evidence that “Moore had significant mental and social difficulties beginning at an early age. At 13, Moore lacked basic understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, and the seasons; he could scarcely tell time or comprehend the standards of measure or the basic principle that subtraction is the reverse of addition ... because of his limited ability to read and write, Moore could not keep up with lessons. … Moore’s father, teachers, and peers called him ‘stupid’ for his slow reading and speech. After failing every subject in the ninth grade, Moore dropped out of high school ... survived on the streets, eating from trash cans.” The court of appeal employed the correct legal criteria, examining: deficits in intellectual functioning—primarily a test-related criterion; adaptive deficits, “assessed using both clinical evaluation and individualized . . . measures”.; and the onset of these deficits while the defendant was still a minor. The court focused on adaptive deficits and found the state’s expert witness more credible and reliable than the other experts The Supreme Court held that the opinion repeated the analysis previously found improper; it relied, in part, on prison-based development, considered “emotional problems, ” and employed some “lay stereotypes of the intellectually disabled.” Moore has shown he is a person with intellectual disability. View "Moore v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In regulating the practice of engineering, Mississippi restricts the use of the term “engineer.” Express operates automotive service centers in Mississippi and other states under the Tire Engineers mark. The Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers & Surveyors informed Express that the name Tire Engineers violated Miss. Code 73-13-39 and requested that it change its company advertisement name. Express sought a declaratory judgment, citing Express’s “rights of commercial free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment”; and “rights under preemptive federal trademark law” under 15 U.S.C. 1051–1127. The district court granted the Board summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The Board’s decision violates the First Amendment’s commercial speech protections. Because its essential character is not deceptive, Tire Engineers is not inherently misleading. The name, trademarked since 1948, apparently refers to the work of mechanics using their skills “not usu[ally] considered to fall within the scope of engineering” to solve “technical problems” related to selecting, rotating, balancing, and aligning tires. Nor is the name actually misleading. Because the name is potentially misleading, the Board’s asserted interests are substantial but the record does not support the need for a total ban on the name. Other states with similar statutes have not challenged the use of the trademark and the Board did not address why less-restrictive means, such as a disclaimer, would not accomplish its goal. View "Express Oil Change, L.L.C. v. Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers & Surveyors" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Christopher Hobdy, a Colorado state prisoner serving time for first degree assault and aggravated robbery, filed an application for federal habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. The criminal charges against Hobdy arose from an assault on the victim Jerry Williams outside a convenience store in 1997. The victim was a police officer with the City of Aurora, Colorado, who had a terminal illness and was living in a hospice at the time of the assault. Williams left to make a purchase at a nearby convenience store early in the morning; as he walked back to the hospice, Hobdy stuck the victim with a shovel. The victim fell to the ground, and his possessions fell out of his pocket. Hobdy picked the items up and ran away. Police located Hobdy and identified him from photographs taken from the store's surveillance camera. Hobdy's main argument at trial was that because of medicines the victim took to treat his terminal illness, his identification of Hobdy from the convenience store and surveillance photos was legally insufficient. The victim died months after the incident, and approximately 8 months prior to trial. In his post-conviction appeals, Hobdy argued he received insufficient assistance of trial and appellate counsel for a variety of reasons, centering primarily on mishandling of testimony and trial procedure, and for failing to preserve certain issues related to the jury's deadlock notes. The district court granted Hobdy’s 2254 application and ordered the State of Colorado to retry him within ninety days. Respondents Rick Raemisch, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and Phil Weiser, the Attorney General for the State of Colorado, appealed the district court’s decision. The Tenth Circuit concluded Hobdy's principal arguments for habeas relief were procedurally barred and could not serve as the basis for relief. The Court therefore reversed the district court, remanded the case with directions to enter judgment in favor of respondents. View "Hobdy v. Raemisch" on Justia Law

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A district court denied Elizabeth Tafoya a preliminary hearing. Tafoya was accused of a class four felony, DUI (fourth or subsequent offense). She requested a preliminary hearing on that charge, but the district court found the DUI count was substantively a misdemeanor that could only be elevated to felony by a sentence enhancer--here, as a fourth or subsequent offense. The Colorado Supreme Court determined, however, under the plain language of the applicable statute, Tafoya was entitled to a preliminary hearing, and the district court erred in denying her request. View "In re Colorado v. Tafoya" on Justia Law