Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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When defendants were originally sentenced, each received a sentence reduction for previously serving time on related state charges. The government then requested that the district court "correct" defendants' sentences pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(a) to eliminate the reductions. The Fifth Circuit held that defendants' initial sentences were not "clear error" correctable under Rule 35(a). Accordingly, the court vacated the order correcting defendants' sentences and reinstated the original judgments for each defendant. View "United States v. Hankton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The court held that, although the alternate juror's presence during deliberations violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 24(c), the temporary presence of the alternate did not impact the jury's verdict and the curative instruction sufficiently dispelled any risk of prejudice. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motions for mistrial and a new trial. View "United States v. Kelly" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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An officer who has provided information for the purpose of its being included in a warrant application under Hart v. O'Brien, 127 F.3d 424 (5th Cir. 1997), has assisted in preparing the warrant application for purposes of Jennings v. Patton, 644 F.3d 297 (5th Cir. 2011), and Hampton v. Oktibbeha County Sheriff Department, 480 F.3d 358 (5th Cir. 2007), and may be liable, but an officer who has not provided information for the purpose of its being included in a warrant application may be liable only if he signed or presented the application. Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against defendant after plaintiff was arrested for an assault committed by another man with the same first and last names. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment in favor of defendant and held that defendant was entitled to summary judgment even when construing all the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff. The court reasoned that the connection between defendant's conduct and plaintiff's arrest was too attenuated to hold the deputy liable under the rule that the court reaffirmed or under any law that was clearly established at the time defendant filled out the incident report. View "Melton v. Phillips" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's claim that the cell phone found in the victim's home, and the subsequently discovered call records linking him to the scene of the murder, were obtained from an unconstitutional search conducted pursuant to a deficient warrant. The court rejected petitioner's defaulted Fourth Amendment claim and held that the evidence fell within the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. View "Evans v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for conspiracy to defraud Medicare, pay unlawful kickbacks, and launder money. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; there was no merger of the money laundering promotion conspiracy with the health care fraud conspiracy because the two counts were distinct conspiracies, neither of which had as an element any overt act that could have overlapped to create a merger problem; the district court did not commit reversible error in the minor limitation of one cross-examination; the district court properly admitted a co-defendant's out-of-court confession over a Bruton objection; the district court did not err by giving a deliberate ignorance jury instruction; and there was no merit in one of the defendant's restitution objections. Finally, the cumulative error doctrine did not apply in this case. View "United States v. Gibson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence of 30 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana. The court held that the district court properly applied the sentencing guidelines and considered the substance of Amendment 794; the district court properly concluded that defendant was not a minor participant; and the district court was free to analyze defendant's indispensable or essential role along with other considerations. View "United States v. Amieva-Rodriguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's calculation of defendant's criminal history points after he pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of firearms with altered and obliterated serial numbers. However, the court held that the record did not clearly demonstrate that defendant's sentence was not influenced in any way by the erroneous Guideline calculation. The court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing so that the district court may determine, in the first instance, whether supplemental evidence should be considered and, if so, whether such evidence is sufficient to establish the requisite intent. View "United States v. Soza" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Sentencing Guidelines' obstruction-of-justice enhancement covers false statements made to obtain appointed counsel. Defendant pleaded guilty to failure to register as a sex offender and challenged the length of his prison term and some of the conditions of his supervised release. The Fifth Circuit followed the previous decisions of this court and those of the Ninth and Eleventh Circuits in holding that lying to a judicial officer, as defendant did in this case, to obtain appointed counsel qualifies as obstruction under the Guidelines. The court vacated the second condition of supervised release because allowing private therapists to set restrictions on a defendant's conduct, without the court having to approve those restrictions, usurps a judge's exclusive sentencing authority. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "United States v. Iverson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to illegal reentry. Defendant was sentenced in part based on two points for a North Carolina conviction for a drug offense in 2005. Another two points were for a North Carolina conviction for violating the same statute in 2006. The North Carolina court had consolidated those two cases into a single judgment and sentenced defendant accordingly. The court held that it was obvious error to score the consolidated sentence twice and the court chose to correct the error in light of its effect on the sentence combined with the nature of the error. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Rios Marroquin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting a minor. The court held that the district court did not make a definitive and conclusive statement regarding the sentence to be imposed, and directly invited defendant to speak on any topic of his choosing before it formally announced and imposed the sentence. Therefore, the district court did not commit an error under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32 that was clear or obvious. Furthermore, the district court did not err by applying a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility to his adjusted offense level of 51. View "United States v. Pittsinger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law