Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court convicting Defendant of driving under the influence, fifth offense, and aggravated driving under the influence (DUI), fifth offense, holding that Defendant’s trial counsel provided effective assistance and that Defendant’s sentence was not excessive. The primary issue on appeal was whether Defendant’s trial counsel was ineffective by failing to offer at an enhancement hearing available evidence that purportedly would have established that the State was precluded from relitigating a Wisconsin court’s determination that a prior conviction was invalid for enhancement purposes. The Supreme Court held (1) issue preclusion does not apply to sentence enhancement proceedings, and therefore, Defendant was not prejudiced by his trial counsel’s failure to offer into evidence at the enhancement hearing the Wisconsin motion to preclude; and (2) the district court did not err by imposing excessive sentences. View "State v. Spang" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court convicting Defendant of three counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, holding that the trial court did not err in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress. Defendant was arrested after law enforcement stopped and searched his person and belongings. In their search, the officers found illegal drugs and brass knuckles. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress after applying the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment to justify Defendant’s continued detention after officers completed their initial investigation related to a reported altercation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the initial detention and investigation were reasonable and did not amount to a de facto arrest; (2) Defendant’s continued detention following the initial investigation was reasonable; and (3) the warrantless search of Defendant’s person did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Shiffermiller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief, holding that there was no merit to Appellant’s claims that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to preserve objections to certain evidence introduced at trial. Appellant was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to fifty years to life imprisonment. Appellant filed a motion for postconviction relief, which was denied without an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court reversed with respect to certain ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims and remanded for an evidentiary hearing. Thereafter, the district court held an evidentiary hearing and denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant postconviction relief. View "State v. Huston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences for first degree sexual assault of a child and felony child abuse, holding that the trial court did not violate Defendant’s constitutional right of confrontation and that Defendant’s remaining claims of error were without merit. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court erred in hearing the alleged victim’s testimony outside Defendant’s presence without adequately safeguarding Defendant’s confrontation rights, but the error was harmless; (2) the record was not sufficient to review Defendant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of second-degree degree murder and other offenses, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and that Defendant’s other assignments of error lacked merit. On appeal from his convictions and sentences, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress cell site location information (CSLI) in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Carpenter v. United States, __ U.S. __ (2018). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) even though the acquisition of CSLI violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress because the exclusionary rule did not apply; (2) suppression is not an available remedy for violation of the Stored Communications Act; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing certain testimony; and (4) the district court id not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of possession of methamphetamine and sentencing her to two years’ probation, holding that the trial court did not err in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress. On appeal, Defendant argued that the odor of marijuana alone no longer provides probable cause to support a warrantless search a vehicle because due to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) when an officer detects the odor of marijuana emanating from a readily mobile vehicle, the odor alone furnishes probable cause to suspect contraband will be found, and the vehicle may be lawfully searched under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement; and (2) in this case, the odor of marijuana coming from inside the car furnished probable cause to suspect contraband would be found in the car, and therefore, the warrantless search was lawful. View "State v. Seckinger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of possession of a controlled substance and child abuse, holding that Defendant was not unconstitutionally seized when Defendant was detained beyond the time reasonably necessary to complete the mission of the traffic stop. Defendant was driving a vehicle owned by his girlfriend when law enforcement stopped him to investigate a citizen report of dangerous driving. Defendant’s children were in the back seat of the vehicle when Defendant was stopped at a gas station. Dafter completing their routine investigation related to the stop law enforcement discovered that Defendant was driving with a suspended license and had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Thirty minutes later, the vehicle was searched by drug detection dogs. Police officers then searched the car and discovered methamphetamine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress because the discovery of the methamphetamine was not the product of an illegal search and seizure; (2) Defendant’s assignments of error related to the evidentiary rulings at trial were unavailing; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for child abuse. View "State v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court that denied Defendant’s motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, holding that the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s postconviction claims without an evidentiary hearing. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and related firearms offenses. Defendant later filed a motion for postconviction relief alleging various claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, holding that the district court did not err. View "State v. Henderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, holding that Appellant’s postconviction motion failed to state a claim for relief. Appellant was convicted of first degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony in the shooting of a police officer. Appellant later filed an amended motion for postconviction relief, alleging that he was denied the right to a fair trial, ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, and newly discovered evidence. The district court denied the motion, finding that Appellant was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of postconviction relief as to all of Appellant’s assignments of error, holding that Appellant’s claims were without merit. View "State v. Allen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of first-degree murder murder and second-degree arson and the sentences imposed in connection with the convictions, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and that Defendnat's trial counsel was not ineffective. On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove the elements of her convictions and that her trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in eight respects. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and that the record refuted Defendant’s claims of ineffective assistance. View "State v. Golyar" on Justia Law