by
Defendant Aaron Cady appeals the trial court’s decision, rejecting his coram nobis petition challenging the validity of the plea colloquy preceding his conviction for driving under the influence, second offense (DUI-2). The trial court found the plea was made knowingly and voluntarily, and entered a guilty judgment. Defendant did not appeal the DUI-2 conviction. After complying with all sentencing terms, the trial court discharged defendant from probation. In January 2017, defendant was charged with DUI-3. In June 2017, defendant filed a petition for coram nobis in the DUI-2 docket, alleging that the trial court failed to ensure that a factual basis existed for the plea under Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(f) in that case. Defendant asserted that he would suffer collateral consequences because the DUI-2 conviction would be used to enhance the penalty for the pending DUI-3 charge. The trial court denied defendant’s petition for coram nobis, concluding that although coram nobis was available because defendant had no other remedy available to challenge the DUI-2 conviction, his plea colloquy nevertheless satisfied Rule 11(f). In so finding, the trial court concluded that the change-of-plea court sufficiently inquired into the facts as they related to each element of the offense. The issue this case raised for the Vermont Supreme Court was whether a defendant who was not currently suffering a collateral consequence of an enhanced sentence, but faced the threat of an enhanced sentence due to a prior conviction, could preemptively challenge the plea colloquy preceding the prior conviction using coram nobis. The Supreme Court concluded that because individuals, like defendant, can raise the adequacy of a plea colloquy in a prior conviction through post-conviction relief (PCR) proceedings once sentenced, coram nobis relief was not available, "Coram nobis relief is only available as a last resort and cannot supplant other forms of relief such as direct appeal, post-judgment motions, or PCR petitions under 13 V.S.A. 7131." View "Vermont v. Cady" on Justia Law

by
The city owned land and a townhome in New Orleans after 1998; its previous owner, Jett, neglected to pay his taxes. Notwithstanding its recorded ownership, the city instituted Code Enforcement proceedings against Jett in 2012. The Garretts purchased the property on October 2, 2015, and recorded the conveyance on October 14. They claim that the building was structurally sound. The city continued to pursue Jett. An administrative judgment was entered on October 30, ordering Jett to pay fines and warning that the building could be demolished. A lien was recorded on December 7. The Garretts were not named and received no notice. On January 15, 2016, their realtor noticed a sign advising upcoming demolition of the property. They contacted the city, which canceled the lien. E-mail exchanges indicated that the Garretts intended to resolve all code issues. On January 27, the city demolished the townhouse. Denying the Garretts' request for compensation, the city sent a bill for the demolition costs. They did not appeal but filed suit alleging denial of due process and just compensation. The district court dismissed the claim as jurisdictionally unripe because they failed to seek compensation in state court. The Fifth Circuit vacated, finding the due process claim, predicated on lack of notice and a hearing, ripe, given the uncertainty of remedies in a state court inverse condemnation suit. The court concluded that the other claims were ripe or would be best resolved in the same suit. View "Archbold-Garrett v. New Orleans City" on Justia Law

by
Only 25% of registered California voters participated in the June 2014 primary; only 42% voted in the November 2014 general election. To increase participation in the democratic process, California enacted the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA), modeled after Colorado’s successful election system. A ballot is automatically mailed to every registered voter 29 days before the election date, Cal. Elec.Code 4005(a)(8)(A). A voter may cast a completed ballot by mailing it in, depositing the ballot at a designated “ballot dropoff location” (a large locked mailbox), or submitting it at a “vote center.” The voter may cast his ballot as soon as he receives it. Rather than require all 58 California counties to implement this new voting system immediately, the VCA authorizes 14 counties to opt in on or after January 1, 2018. All other counties may implement the all-mailed system on or after January 1, 2020. Within six months of each election conducted under the system, the California Secretary of State must submit to the legislature a detailed report assessing turnout and other metrics of success. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction in a suit alleging that the VCA violated the Equal Protection Clause by restricting the fundamental right to vote on the basis of county of residence, without sufficient justification. View "Short v. Brown" on Justia Law

by
During a traffic stop, an officer found a large quantity of drugs in a vehicle driven by James Vance. A grand jury indicted Vance for possession of at least 500 grams of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Vance filed a motion to suppress the methamphetamine as the fruit of an illegal traffic stop; the district court denied Vance’s motion. Vance entered into a conditional guilty plea, preserving the right to appeal the district court’s denial of the suppression motion. On appeal, Vance argued: (1) his conduct did not amount to a violation of N.M. Stat. Ann. 66-7-317(A) because his lane change did not pose a safety risk to, or have an actual affect on, nearby traffic; and (2) even assuming a lane change that does not pose a hazard to another vehicle can amount to a violation of section 66-7-317(A), officers lacked reasonable suspicion to believe he failed to confirm the safety of his lane change before making it. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Vance's conviction. View "United States v. Vance" on Justia Law

by
This appeal stemmed from a special condition of supervised release, which banned Dominic Pacheco-Donelson from associating with any gang members. He challenged the ban only with respect to its inclusion of two of his foster brothers. Pacheco-Donelson argued inclusion of the two foster brothers rendered the ban procedurally and substantively unreasonable. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding Pacheco-Donelson failed to object at district court based on procedural reasonableness, and he had not shown plain error. In addition, the Court found special condition was substantively reasonable, for it was reasonably related to the statutory sentencing factors and did not deprive Pacheco-Donelson of greater liberty than was reasonably necessary. View "United States v. Pacheco-Donelson" on Justia Law

by
On or about March 22, 2016, Carrie Cabri Witt, a school employee, was arrested and charged with engaging in sex acts with students who were under the age of 19 years. At that time, she was also placed on paid administrative leave. Later that year, a grand jury returned a two-count indictment that charged her with engaging in a sex act or deviate sexual intercourse with two students who were under the age of 19 years. The superintendent of education for Morgan County recommended to the Board that Witt's teaching contract be terminated based on the allegations that she had engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with one or more students in the Decatur City School System. According to the Board, that conduct violated Board policy and corresponding professional standards. The Board notified Witt that it had scheduled a termination hearing for March 2, 2017. Witt filed a petition seeking a preliminary injunction staying the termination proceeding until after the disposition of the underlying criminal case, arguing that, because the basis for the termination proceeding was the underlying criminal charges, she would be forced to choose between the risk of self-incrimination if she testified in the termination proceeding or of losing her teaching contract if she did not testify in the termination proceeding. The Board moved to dismiss or deny the petition for a preliminary injunction; the trial court granted the petition for a preliminary injunction. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Board established that circumstances changed since the trial court entered the preliminary injunction staying the termination proceeding on February 28, 2017, so that the preliminary injunction or stay was no longer appropriate. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and direct the trial court to dissolve its February 28, 2017, injunction and to dismiss the petition upon which it was based. View "Ex parte Decatur City Board of Education." on Justia Law

by
When a phone connects to a cell site, it generates time-stamped cell-site location information (CSLI) that is stored by wireless carriers for business purposes. The FBI identified the cell phone numbers of robbery suspects. Prosecutors obtained court orders to get the suspects’ CSLI under the Stored Communications Act, which requires “reasonable grounds” for believing that the records were “relevant and material to an ongoing investigation,” 18 U.S.C. 2703(d), rather than a showing of probable cause. With CSLI for Carpenter’s phone, the government cataloged Carpenter’s movements over 127 days, showing that Carpenter’s phone was near four robbery locations at the time those robberies occurred. After denial of his motion to suppress, Carpenter was convicted. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the acquisition of Carpenter’s cell-site records was a Fourth Amendment search. The Fourth Amendment protects expectations of privacy “that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable” so that official intrusion generally qualifies as a search and requires a warrant supported by probable cause. Historical cell-site records give the government near-perfect surveillance, allow it to travel back in time to retrace a person’s whereabouts. Rejecting an argument that the third-party doctrine governed these “business records,” the Court noted the “world of difference between the limited types of personal information” addressed in precedent and the “exhaustive chronicle of location information casually collected by wireless carriers.” CSLI is not truly “shared” because cell phones are an indispensable, pervasive part of daily life and they log CSLI without any affirmative act by the user. The Court noted that its decision is narrow and does not address conventional surveillance tools, such as security cameras, other business records that might reveal location information, or collection techniques involving foreign affairs or national security. View "Carpenter v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Currier was indicted for burglary, grand larceny, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Because the prosecution could introduce evidence of his prior burglary and larceny convictions to prove the felon-in-possession charge, which might prejudice the jury’s consideration of the other charges, the parties agreed to a severance and asked the court to try the burglary and larceny charges first, followed by a second trial on the felon-in-possession charge. At the first trial, Currier was acquitted. He then, unsuccessfully, sought to stop the second trial, arguing that it would amount to double jeopardy. The jury convicted him on the felon-in-possession charge. Virginia courts and the Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that, because Currier consented to a severance, his trial and conviction on the felon-in-possession charge did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, which provides that no person may be tried more than once “for the same offence.” A second trial is not precluded simply because it is very unlikely that the original jury acquitted without finding the fact in question. Currier was not forced to give up one constitutional right to secure another but faced a lawful choice between courses of action that each bore potential costs and benefits. View "Currier v. Virginia" on Justia Law

by
The district court properly suppressed drug-related evidence discovered in a vehicle search following a traffic stop because the officer improperly prolonged the traffic stop. The district court found the initial traffic stop was lawful and that the stop ended when the officer gave Defendant a warning citation and his documents and told him he was free to leave. The court concluded that a consensual encounter then occurred but ended when the officer told Defendant to sit down inside the police car and that there was no probable cause to justify the vehicle search. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to detain Defendant after the traffic stop, and therefore, the State did not meet its burden to show that the challenged seizure was lawful. View "State v. Lowery" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the lower courts erred in concluding that the traffic stop in this case was impermissibly extended. The district court suppressed from evidence thirty-eight pounds of marijuana seized after a traffic stop, finding that the stop was unconstitutionally extended. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court disagreed with the lower courts, holding (1) discrepancies between the driver’s statements and the vehicle-related documents justified the deputy’s progressive questioning; (2) the questioning occurred simultaneously with the deputy’s appropriate steps in processing the traffic stop; and (3) the circumstances provided the officer reasonable suspicion to extend the detention and for a drug dog sniff. View "State v. Schooler" on Justia Law