Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against three officers and the City of Fort Worth, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff's suit stemmed from his arrest after he was video recording a police station from a public sidewalk and refused to identify himself to officers. The district court granted the officers' motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The court concluded that all three officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment claim because there was no clearly established First Amendment right to record the police at the time of plaintiff's activities. The court explained for the future that First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrate that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. The court also concluded that Officer Grinalds and Dyess's initial questioning or detention of plaintiff before he was handcuffed was objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law. Therefore, Grinalds and Dyess are entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim that they violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from detention absent reasonable suspicion. However, the court concluded that no objectively reasonable person in these officers' position could have believed that there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff and thus they are not entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim that the officers violated his right to be free from warrantless arrest absent probable cause. Finally, Lieutenant Driver is entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims where Driver acted objectively reasonably in light of the circumstances. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to this claim. View "Turner v. Driver" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of ten counts of sexual exploitation of a child and child pornography, sentenced to 600 months in prison and five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay criminal monetary penalties consisting of a $1000 special assessment and a $1000 fine. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's order requiring the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to turn over as payment all but $1000 held in defendant's inmate trust account after he failed to pay the monetary penalties. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the Government's enforcement of the order against defendant's property, including surplus funds held in his inmate trust account, did not exceed the terms of the original judgment. View "United States v. Diehl" on Justia Law
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Defendant challenged his sentence after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant contends that the district court misapplied the guidelines enhancements for both of the Texas convictions, neither of which is eligible to serve as a predicate offense under USSG 4B1.2(b). The court found that the district court committed harmless error as to the conviction for delivery of a controlled substance where this court has declared that a Texas conviction for delivery of a controlled substance is not a "controlled substance offense" within the meaning of the Sentencing Guidelines. The court concluded that defendant's Texas conviction for aggravated assault is a crime of violence under USSG 4B1.2, and rejected defendant's assertion that this guideline is unconstitutionally vague. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Shepherd" on Justia Law
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USCIS denied plaintiff's application for naturalization based on her conviction of conspiracy to commit false or altered lottery tickets. USCIS reasoned that plaintiff's conviction, an aggravated felony, permanently prevented her from demonstrating good moral character and thus from being naturalized. Plaintiff argues that the Louisiana statute implementing the first-offender pardon demonstrates that this is a full pardon such that it falls within the regulation. Given that Louisiana does not consider the automatic first-offender pardon to restore "a status of innocence," as does a gubernatorial pardon, the court concluded that USCIS's interpretation that an automatic first-offender pardon is not a "full and unconditional executive pardon" is permissible. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment. View "Nguyen v. USCIS" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. Defendant argued that the government breached the plea agreement by opposing a safety valve adjustment to his sentence. The court found that defendant failed to show the government's conduct in opposing his eligibility for a safety valve adjustment was inconsistent with a reasonable understanding of the plea agreement. Therefore, the court dismissed defendant's appeal because it is barred by the appeal waiver in the plea agreement. View "United States v. Cruz-Romero" on Justia Law
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After plaintiff was arrested during a protest at a Planned Parenthood, he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The district court held that individual officers were entitled to qualified immunity and that plaintiff failed to create a dispute of fact for municipal liability for the City of Stafford. The court concluded that the district court improperly granted summary judgment in favor of Officers Flagg and Jones where plaintiff was arrested without probable cause in violation of clearly established law; rejected plaintiff's claim that the City had an official policy of improperly applying Texas Penal Code 38.02 and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City on plaintiff's section 1983 municipality liability claim; concluded that the district court correctly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for liability of Chief Kahn in his individual capacity where plaintiff's evidence failed to create a material dispute of fact as to deliberate indifference; and agreed with plaintiff that the district court failed to address his claims that defendants' understanding of sections 38.02 and 42.03 and plaintiff's arrest resulted in an as-applied violation of his First Amendment rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Davidson v. City of Stafford, Texas" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of simple possession of cocaine. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's application of a 16-level sentence enhancement under USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(i) based on a prior Texas state conviction that the district court found to be a drug trafficking offense. The court concluded, assuming arguendo, defendant has shown that the district court committed clear or obvious error, the district court's error did not seriously affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings. Accordingly, the court declined to exercise its discretion to remedy the district court's error under the fourth prong of plain error review, and affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Renteria-Martinez" on Justia Law
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Defendant plead guilty to possession of a firearm while being unlawfully present in the United States. On appeal, defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence. The court concluded that the Government has failed to satisfy its burden under Terry v. Ohio of pointing to specific and articulable facts warranting reasonable suspicion that defendant had committed, was committing or was about to commit a criminal act prior to his seizure. The court explained that, although defendant's behavior might not have been typical of all stranded motorists, the totality of the circumstances prior to the deputy's announcement of a pat-down did not point to any reason to suspect defendant of criminal activity. Therefore, the court concluded that the seizure violated defendant's rights under the Fourth Amendment, and the evidence obtained therefrom must be suppressed. The court reversed the conviction and vacated the sentence. View "United States v. Monsivais" on Justia Law
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After defendant conditionally pleaded guilty to the receipt and attempted receipt of child pornography, he appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained in the search of his home and his motion for reconsideration. The court held that the district court did not err in denying suppression of the evidence the Government seized from defendant's home because: (1) defendant failed to carry his burden to show that the good faith exception does not apply; and (2) defendant was not entitled to suppression based on the Government’s delay in completing its search of the evidence where he waived the claim that the Government violated Rule 41, and the Government did not violate the Fourth Amendment because it acted reasonably under the circumstances. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Jarman" on Justia Law
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Defendants Buck and Allen appealed their convictions for various crimes, including robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a). The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to dismiss the case based on the government’s discovery violations; the district court did not plainly err by classifying a Hobbs Act robbery as a crime of violence; the use of the Fifth Circuit pattern jury instruction for Hobbs Act robbery was not an abuse of discretion by the district court; the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying a four-level enhancement for abduction to Buck’s base offense level under USSG 2B3.1(b)(4)(A); the district court did not abuse its discretion in not holding other individuals jointly and severally liable for the restitution award; Allen's 119-year sentence does not violate the Eighth Amendment; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Allen's cellmate to testify as a government witness. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Buck" on Justia Law
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