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At issue was whether evidence of a search must be suppressed under Va. Code 19.2-54 because a magistrate incorrectly faxed only portions of a search warrant to the clerk of the circuit court. Defendant was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the magistrate’s failure to properly fax the search warrant to the clerk’s office rendered the warrant invalid. The trial court agreed that the warrant was defective but denied the suppression motion on the ground that the search was justified by exigent circumstances. The court of appeals reversed, arguing that section 19.2-54 rendered the fruits of the search inadmissible as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court’s order of conviction, holding that, even assuming that the magistrate’s incomplete faxing rendered the search warrant invalid under section 19.2-54, the search was justified as a warrantless search under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. View "Commonwealth v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction of Defendant for murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the presence of investigating police officers in the grand jury room during witness testimony in support of the indictments against Defendant did not result in structural error requiring the reversal of Defendant’s convictions; (2) Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel during trial, nor was there prosecutorial misconduct; and (3) the admission of statements Defendant made during an interview with police did not violate his Miranda rights. View "Commonwealth v. Woollam" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted defendant-appellant, Thomas Tennard, Jr., of a nonstrike felony: inflicting corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon his cohabitant girlfriend, M.L. The court found defendant had four prison priors and two prior strikes, including a 1991 conviction for forcible rape, a “super strike.” Pursuant to the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 ("Prop. 36," (Nov. 6, 2012)), defendant was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for his domestic violence conviction, even though it was neither a serious nor a violent felony. Because his prior forcible rape conviction was a “super strike,” defendant was disqualified from being sentenced to a lesser term of “twice the term otherwise provided” for a domestic violence conviction. Defendant was sentenced to a consecutive one-year term for one of his four prison priors. In this appeal, defendant claimed the court had no authority to impose the 25-year-to-life term, arguing the prosecution erroneously failed to specifically “plead and prove” that his prior forcible rape conviction was a super strike which disqualified him or rendered him ineligible to be sentenced as a second strike offender to twice the term otherwise provided for his current felony conviction pursuant to Penal Code section 667(e)(1). Defendant argued the court was only authorized to sentence him to a maximum of eight years on his current conviction. In addition to his statutory claim, defendant claimed he was deprived of his due process right to notice that the prosecution would seek an indeterminate term on his current conviction. After review, the Court of Appeal remanded this matter with directions to correct the abstract of judgment to reflect that defendant’s presentence custody credits were awarded pursuant to section 4019, not section 2933.1. In all other respects, the Court affirmed the sentence. View "California v. Tennard" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Appellant’s federal convictions and resulting sentence for five counts of bank robbery. The court held that, contrary to the arguments raised by Appellant on appeal, the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s motions for (1) a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), based on Appellant’s failure to make the requisite preliminary showing, regarding warrants that were issued to install Global Positions System (GPS) tracking devices; (2) the suppression of evidence obtained from the GPS tracking devices installed pursuant to those warrants where the supporting affidavit provided probable cause for the warrants and for the installation of the GPS tracking devices; and (3) the suppression of evidence obtained as the result of Appellant’s arrest where the probable cause standard was met. View "United States v. Patterson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner’s sentence of 110 years’ imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, for deliberate homicide with the use of a weapon did not violate his Eighth Amendment rights even where Petitioner committed the offense when he was seventeen years old. At issue was whether Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, __ U.S. __ (2016), apply to Montana’s discretionary sentencing scheme and whether Petitioner’s sentence qualifies as a de facto life sentence to which Miller and Montgomery apply. The Supreme Court held (1) Miller and Montgomery apply to discretionary sentences in Montana; and (2) Petitioner’s sentence, when viewed in light of Petitioner’s eligibility for day-for-day good time credit and the concurrent sentence he was serving in Washington, did not qualify as a de facto life sentence to which Miller’s substantive rule applied. View "Steilman v. Michael" on Justia Law

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In 2014, defendant-appellant Justin Werle was indicted in Washington State for the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and possession of an unregistered firearm. Werle pled guilty to both counts. The district court found that Werle had seven prior qualifying convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act and was therefore subject to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence. This finding was based in part on the district court’s determination that the Washington riot statute was categorically a violent felony for the purposes of the ACCA. A different panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Washington riot statute was not categorically a violent felony, and the case was remanded for resentencing in light of the opinion. On remand, the district court imposed a sentence enhancement under U.S.S.G. section 2K2.1(a) due to Werle’s prior convictions for felony harassment via a threat to kill under Washington Revised Code section 9A.46.020(2)(b)(ii), finding that those convictions were crimes of violence. The district court then calculated Werle’s sentencing guideline range to be between 130 and 162 months, and concluded that a total sentence of 140 months was appropriate. Werle appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Werle" on Justia Law

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In 2012, minor political parties challenged Pennsylvania’s election laws under the First and Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 1983. Minor parties gather a considerable number of signatures to place candidates on the ballot; the validity of those signatures can be challenged. A successful challenge may result in an award of costs (which may be considerable). The threat of these high costs has deterred some candidates. The court held that the statutes were, in combination, unconstitutional as applied to the parties, and ultimately adopted the Commonwealth’s proposal, based on a pending Pennsylvania General Assembly bill, that minor party candidates be placed on the ballot if they gather two and one-half times as many signatures as major party candidates must gather for the office of Governor, at least 5,000 signatures must be gathered with at least 250 from at least 10 of the 67 counties. For other statewide offices, the bill required 1,250-2,500 signatures with at least 250 from at least five counties. The court did not find any facts, nor explain its decision. The Third Circuit vacated, finding the record inadequate to support the signature gathering requirement. The appropriate inquiry is concerned with the extent to which a challenged regulation actually burdens constitutional rights and is “fact-intensive.” The court can impose the county-based signature-gathering requirements if it concludes that the requirements would have no appreciable impact on voting rights. View "Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v. Cortes" on Justia Law

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Harrisburg Officer Simmons, conducting undercover surveillance, heard a dispatch about gunshots east of his location, describing two potential suspects in dark-colored hooded sweatshirts, walking west. Minutes later, Simmons observed two men in dark-colored hooded sweatshirts walking west. Graves had a “pronounced, labored” gait and tense arms, suggesting that “he may have concealed something heavy.” Simmons yelled “Police,” handcuffed Graves, and conducted a pat-down search, during which he felt “multiple small hard objects” in Graves’ front pockets. The objects felt like crack cocaine but were packets of Depakote and one bullet. Graves admitted that he had a loaded pistol in his boot. Graves was charged with possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, 18 U.S.C. 922(k); 924(a)(1)(B) and unlawful possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2); 924(e). After denial of his motion to suppress, Graves pled guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm. The court treated Graves as a career offender, finding that his two convictions for North Carolina common law robbery were the categorical equivalent of the enumerated crime of robbery, U.S.S.G. 2K2.1. The Third Circuit affirmed. Simmons had reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was underway and did not exceed the bounds of a valid protective frisk. Under the Guidelines, generic federal robbery is defined as in the majority of state robbery statutes, without the requirement of more than de minimis force; North Carolina common law robbery and generic federal robbery contain the same elements. View "United States v. Graves" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting the City of Providence’s motion for summary judgment in this lawsuit filed by Lehigh Cement Co. seeking to recover approximately $500,000 in real estate taxes billed and collected by the city from 2006 to 2009. The court held (1) the hearing justice did not err in granting summary judgment on Lehigh’s claim under R.I. Gen. Laws 44-5-23, as the statute does not provide relief to a taxpayer; (2) summary judgment on Lehigh’s claim under the fair distribution clause of the Rhode Island Constitution was appropriate; and (3) the hearing justice did not err in granting summary judgment on Lehigh’s claim under R.I. Gen. Laws 44-5-27. View "Lehigh Cement Co. v. Quinn" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Richard Lincoln had his term of supervised release revoked. His revocation sentence included a new term of supervised release, which had the same special conditions as the original revoked term. Lincoln argued on appeal that the re-imposition of one condition in particular, a condition that he did not object to or appeal from when it was originally imposed, was outside the bounds of the district court’s discretion. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Eighth Circuit disagreed and affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Lincoln" on Justia Law