Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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USSG USSG 2K2.1(b)(4) requires only that one serial number be altered or obliterated on a firearm, even if others are clearly legible. The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court did not err by applying a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(4), for an altered or obliterated serial number on the firearm. In this case, the metal serial-number plate had been removed from the frame of the handgun, but it had a legible serial number on its side. Therefore, the metal serial number plate altered or obliterated the serial number. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that the special condition of supervised release imposed by the district court for defendant to participate in a mental health treatment program was not supported by the record. In this case, the district court's reasoning was scant and the court's independent review of the record determined that the district court could have imposed a less restrictive alternative. Therefore, the district court committed reversible plain error and the court modified the sentence by striking the condition. The court otherwise affirmed the sentence as modified. View "United States v. Bree" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's acceptance of defendant's guilty plea to possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. The court first considered the entire record in assessing the sufficiency of the factual basis. In this case, assuming arguendo that the factual basis contained a viable justification defense, the record plainly established that defendant knowingly possessed a firearm. Therefore, the court held that the factual basis demonstrated that defendant's conduct satisfied all elements of the offense. View "United States v. Ortiz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to illegal reentry into the United States after being previously removed. The court held that defendant failed to prove error affecting his substantial rights where nothing about the classification of his prior sex offenses altered the district court's focus on his contumacy. The district court determined that defendant's earlier conviction failed to deter defendant, because he quickly reentered the United States after his most recent illegal reentry conviction. In this case, the district court never cited the sexual assault convictions in explaining its chosen sentence. Rather, the district court's explanation made clear that the judge based the sentence on factors independent of the Guidelines. View "United States v. Sanchez-Hernandez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA), dismissed his appeal for lack of jurisdiction, and sanctioned him for appealing his collateral attack on his conviction. The court held that a denial of a motion to quash a writ of execution under 28 U.S.C. 1291 is a final decision. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's request to quash the government's writ of execution. The court held that the statutes governing restitution granted petitioner the right to reduce his restitution order based on subsequent civil judgments. However, the court rejected petitioner's collateral attack on the restitution order and held that he did not meet the evidentiary requirements of 18 U.S.C. 3664(j)(2). View "United States v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit treated respondent's petition for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing and granted it, withdrawing the court's prior opinion and substituting the following. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's federal application for post-conviction relief and denial of further investigative funding. The court held that no Supreme Court precedent holds that Miranda violations are not subject to harmless-error analysis, and the Court of Criminal Appeals' (CCA) decision to apply harmless-error analysis did not conflict with clearly established federal law. Furthermore, the CCA did not unreasonably apply Chapman v. California. Finally, the district court did not improperly deny petitioner investigative funding under 18 U.S.C. 3599(f) where the district court viewed the request for additional funding as effectively seeking a full retrial of the issues already litigated in the state court. View "Jones v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress and held that defendant was not in custody for purposes of Miranda. Considering all the circumstances of the interview and viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the court held that defendant was not "in custody," because a reasonable inmate in defendant's position would not expect to be required to stay in the office after the termination of the interview. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to instruct the jury on a statute of limitations defense where there was no evidence that immigration authorities had actual or constructive knowledge of defendant's presence in the United States. Finally, the court held that defendant's challenge to jury selection was unavailing and defendant failed to show a clear or obvious Confrontation Clause error. View "United States v. Arellano-Banuelos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The district court held that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' application of Witherspoon v. Illinois and its progeny was unreasonable because the state trial court violated petitioner's constitutional right to an impartial jury under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when it excluded a member of the venire for having moral, conscientious, or religious objections to the death penalty. The State appealed. The Fifth Circuit held that the state court proceedings concerning the exclusion of the member as a juror did not result in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. Furthermore, the state court proceedings did not result in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding. However, the district court did not give appropriate deference to the TCCA's determination that the trial court did not violate the federal constitution when it removed the member for cause. The court also held that petitioner was not entitled to habeas relief on this claim of ineffective assistance of counsel where, even assuming counsel's performance was deficient, petitioner failed to establish prejudice. Finally, petitioner failed to cite any decision of the Supreme Court holding that the severely mentally ill are ineligible for execution. Accordingly, the court reversed in part to the extent that the district court conditionally granted habeas relief to petitioner on his first claim of relief and otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to transport undocumented aliens within the United States and two counts of transporting undocumented aliens within the United States. The court held that the district court did not prohibit defendant from testifying at the sentencing hearing, and did not err by imposing a sentencing enhancement for reckless endangerment. In this case, the enhancement was based on the district court's finding that defendant committed various dangerous traffic infractions, including driving at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour and running a red light, while seeking to evade capture during the transporting of undocumented aliens. View "United States v. Garcia-Solis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to illegal reentry. The pre-sentence report (PSR) assessed two points stemming from a prior February 2017 misdemeanor conviction for aiding and abetting illegal entry. The court held that, because the dates in the PSR unambiguously established March 2, 2018 as defendant's reentry date, defendant has shown plain error. Furthermore, the error affected defendant's substantial rights, because the district court referred to the Guidelines range multiple times and ultimately imposed a sentence at the top of the range. Finally, this case did not present any other identified countervailing factors justifying the denial of relief under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 52(b). View "United States v. Perez-Mateo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law