Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant father and son pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money servicing business (MSB). The son also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess Alprazolam, a Schedule IV controlled substance, with the intent to distribute. The district court subsequently denied defendants' motion to withdraw their guilty pleas and sentences. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to father and son, with one exception. In this case, the court held that, based on the totality of the circumstances, the evidence presented weighed against the withdrawal of the guilty pleas. The court reversed and remanded for resentencing as to son's maintaining a premises for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance enhancement and special skills enhancement. View "United States v. Lord" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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This case was remanded from the Supreme Court of the United States for reconsideration in light of its decision in Moore v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 1039 (2017). In Moore, the Supreme Court held that the Briseno factors may not be used to restrict qualification of an individual as intellectually disabled. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in this case because applying Moore retroactively contradicted the Court's decision in Shoop v. Hill, ___ S. Ct. ___ (Jan. 7, 2019). View "Weathers v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit dismissed defendant's appeal of the district court's denial of his motion to relocate his supervised release under 18 U.S.C. 3605. In this case, defendant was not, and still is not, on supervised release. The court held that neither 28 U.S.C. 1291, 18 U.S.C. 3742(a), nor Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b) provided it with jurisdiction to review the appeal. The court held that the collateral order doctrine was inapplicable in this case and did not confer appellate jurisdiction. View "United States v. Pittman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after he was convicted of conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants and transporting undocumented immigrants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of a sentencing enhancement for recklessness under USSG 2L1.1(b)(6) where defendant consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk by crossing a deep part of the Rio Grande river with the immigrants. However, the court reversed the district court's denial of a sentence reduction under USSG 3E1.1 for acceptance of responsibility for the offense where he did not deny the factual elements of his guilt. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Najera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After defendant signed a plea agreement pleading guilty of receipt of child pornography, he claimed that he lacked the requisite mens rea, the government entrapped him, and the factual basis of the plea was inaccurate. However, at the pretrial conference, defendant again pleaded guilty under the original plea agreement. In this appeal, defendant argued that the district court committed plain error by restricting his right to withdraw the guilty plea and by involving itself in plea negotiations. The court held that the district court did not err, plain or otherwise, where defendant never formally requested to withdraw his plea but, instead, continued to waver before ultimately deciding to persist in his original guilty plea. The court rejected defendant's claim that the district court improperly conditioned the withdrawal of the plea on his decision to pursue an affirmative defense. The court also held that the judge's stray comments did not amount to a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(d)(1) violation, and the district court did not improperly participate in plea discussions in violation of Rule 11(c)(1). Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. De Leon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's determination that petitioner was removable because she was convicted of a drug offense. Petitioner argued that she was not removable because she was convicted for possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use. The court held that the BIA's interpretation of 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i)'s personal-use exception was reasonable. Applying the BIA's circumstances-specific approach, the court held that petitioner's conviction did not fall within the personal-use exception. In this case, substantial evidence supported the BIA's findings that petitioner possessed 54.6 pounds of marijuana—substantially more than the personal-use exception’s 30-gram threshold. View "Cardoso de Flores v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), and enhanced per the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Defendant alleged that the district court plainly erred in applying the ACCA enhancement and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal as to both claims, holding that defendant's ACCA enhancement claim was barred by his appeal waiver and his ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not ripe for review on direct appeal. View "United States v. Kelly" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After defendant pleaded guilty to trafficking in meth, she moved to suppress evidence, arguing that an officer's tap of her tire was a search not supported by probable cause. The district court denied the motion. The Fifth Circuit held that the brief physical examination of the tire was subject to the Fourth Amendment under the recently revived trespass test for deciding what is a search. However, the officer had probable cause to tap the tire. In this case, the tires were wobbly, the truck was veering outside of its lane, and the stripped bolts gave a reasonable officer probable cause to believe that the tire posed a safety risk. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Richmond" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of ammunition. The court held that the district court clearly erred by imposing a four-level sentencing enhancement pursuant to USSG 2k2.1(b)(6)(B) for using or possessing ammunition in connection with another felony offense. The court held that possession of ammunition alone, under appropriate circumstances not present here, certainly may be sufficient for the four-level enhancement. The court also held that there is no presumption of facilitation regarding the possession of only ammunition. In this case, the court held that the government produced no facts tending to show that defendant's mere possession of ammunition alone was connected with his drug trafficking activities, and thus the application of section 2k2.1(b)(6)(B)'s four-level enhancement was clear error. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Eaden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas relief as successive. The court found that petitioner's previous habeas petition challenged a judgment distinct from the one he challenged in the present habeas petition. In this case, petitioner's 2013 petition challenged only his 20 year sentence and his current petition challenging his seven year sentences concerned a new judgment. View "Parker v. Davis" on Justia Law