Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit previously remanded this case to the district court to determine whether the Government suppressed certain favorable evidence and whether any of the suppressed evidence was material (Cessa II). The district court then concluded that none of the suppressed evidence was material. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in making its materiality determination and thus reversal was not required. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Colorado Cessa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendant Kiekow, Uriarte, and Pierre's convictions for conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The court affirmed the denial of Pierre's motion for a new trial; affirmed Uriarte's sentence; but vacated Kiekow's sentence. The court held that the district court plainly erred by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for maintaining a premises for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance under USSG 2D1.1(b)(12) (2012), because this enhancement did not exist during the period of the conspiracy, which ended around 2009. Rather than having an exposure of 97-121 as a level 30 offender, Kiekow faced a minimum exposure of 121 months and maximum exposure of 151 months as a level 32 offender. Because the plain error affected Kiekow's substantial rights by imposing a significant risk of a higher sentence, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Kiekow" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence of multiple health care fraud and kickback offenses perpetrated through her medical equipment company. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in giving the deliberate indifference jury instruction; the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an expert's testimony regarding Medicare and the practices of medical equipment providers. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in applying an enhancement under USSG 3B1.1(a) because she was an organizer or leader of a criminal activity involving five or more participants. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied defendant's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his appeal as frivolous. Defendant asked the district court to reduce his sentence further according to Amendment 794 and challenged the district court's certification that his appeal was not taken in good faith. The court held that because Amendment 794 was not listed in USSG 1B1.10(d), the district court correctly determined that this amendment did not make defendant eligible for any sentencing reduction. View "United States v. Guerrero" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that plaintiff was subjected to unconstitutional strip searches while incarcerated at the Winn Correctional Center (WCC). In this case, the policies at issue were aimed at preventing the flow of contraband from the outside truck drivers and others to inmates in the Garment Factory and to the main prison, as well as to prevent the removal of items from the Garment Factory that could be used as weapons. The court held that plaintiff failed to rebut this reasonable justification of the strip and visual body searches and thus the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to defendants. The court also held that the LaDPSC and CCA internal rules and regulations did not alone create federally-protected rights and a prison official's failure to follow prison policies or regulations did not establish a violation of a constitutional right; rejected plaintiff's various challenges to discovery; and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the complaint against three named defendants based on failure to serve them properly. View "Lewis v. Secretary of Public Safety & Corrections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to unlawfully reentering the United States. The court held that the district court erred by applying a sixteen-level enhancement to defendant's base offense level under USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii), for defendant's prior conviction under Texas Penal Code 22.05(b). The district court reached its sentencing decision before the decision in Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), which provided helpful guidance for determining whether a predicate statute of conviction was divisible. In this case, because the government failed to prove Section 22.05(b) was divisible, Section 22.05(b) may not be used here as the basis for a crime-of-violence enhancement. View "United States v. Perlaza-Ortiz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant challenged the district court's denial of his motions to unseal the probable cause affidavits supporting three pre-indictment search warrants. The court vacated the district court's judgment, holding that the district court failed to specify its factual findings with requisite detail in the context of the required balancing test. Without more detailed findings from the district court regarding the reasons for keeping the warrant materials sealed, the court could not properly assess those materials and the impact of unsealing them. Accordingly, the court remanded for a case-by-case analysis and a sufficiently detailed factual assessment. View "United States v. Sealed Search Warrant" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for five counts relating to a scheme under which he certified individuals for home health care in exchange for $400 a month. The court held that there was no Ex Post Facto violation where defendant's conduct was illegal regardless of whether he was required to have a face-to-face meeting prior to certification; the district court did not reversibly err in permitting testimony from the government's expert; the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of each count; and the jury instructions provided by the district court fairly and adequately covered the issues presented by the case. View "United States v. Dailey" on Justia Law

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Defendants in these consolidated appeals present essentially the same question of law: whether each defendant was entitled to a two-level reduction under Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which permits such a reduction for sentences based on the drug quantity under USSG 2D1.1, when the original sentence in each case was calculated starting from the higher guideline range for career offenders under USSG 4B1.1. The Fifth Circuit held that the sentences in these appeals were not "based on" section 2D1.1's drug quantity range but rather on section 4B1.1's higher career offender guideline range. Therefore, the district court was without authority as a matter of law to modify the sentences and the court reversed the judgments of the district court. View "United States v. Quintanilla" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner challenged the dismissal of his habeas petition based on failure to exhaust available state remedies. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that petitioner satisfied 28 U.S.C. 2241's exhaustion requirement because he asserted his Double Jeopardy claim before every available state judicial forum, short of undergoing a second trial. The court explained that requiring petitioner to endure a second prosecution before being able to assert his claim in federal court placed him in precisely the same impermissible position as the petitioner in Fain v. Duff, 488 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1973): forced to forfeit the protections of his federal right before being permitted to seek its vindication in federal court. Because the district court did not address petitioner's Double Jeopardy claim and because the record was not sufficiently developed to enable the court to do so in the first instance, the court did not address it. Therefore, the court remanded for adjudication of the Double Jeopardy claim. View "Montano v. Texas" on Justia Law