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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's order of removal under Section 241 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and Section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act. The court held that, although petitioner's state law conviction is not a facial categorical match to the federal schedule of controlled substances, there is no realistic probability that Texas courts will apply its statute to conduct that falls outside of the scope of the federal analog; petitioner is ineligible for withholding of removal because his state law conviction is a "particularly serious crime" within the meaning of the statute; and petitioner's due process rights were not violated where, as a pro se litigant, petitioner successfully secured an initial stay of removal from this court and none of the perceived hindrances he pointed out stopped him from being able to research the law, draft, mail and file his pleadings, and appeal his claims for the better part of four years without the assistance of legal counsel. View "Vetcher v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's 84 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty, without a plea agreement, to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute an unspecified amount of methamphetamine. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in calculating the quantity of meth attributable to defendant; the district court did not err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for maintaining a drug premises under USSG 2D1.1(b)(12); and the district court properly assigned two criminal history points. View "United States v. Eustice" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for unlawful possession of ammunition by a person admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa. After determining that defendant's challenge was properly preserved, the court held that defendant was entitled to a three-level sentencing reduction for attempt under USSG 2X1.1(b)(1) because when he was arrested, he was not about to complete all the acts necessary for the separate offense of exportation of ammunition. In this case, all defendant had done was buy ammunition and, at the time of his arrest, he was not en route to deliver the ammunition. Furthermore, there was no definitive evidence of a temporal timeframe here. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Rodriguez-Leos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed the district court's denial of his Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) motion for relief from the 2010 judgment convicting him of, and sentencing him for, bank robbery. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to determine in the first instance whether it has jurisdiction to consider defendant's Rule 60(b) motion and whether it should issue a certificate of appealability (COA). Because the district court has not ruled on whether defendant should be granted a COA to challenge the denial of his Rule 60(b) motion, the court held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction to consider the district court's denial of defendant's Rule 60(b) motion. View "United States v. Jiminez-Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence, holding that law enforcement officers conducted a reasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment by extending a routine traffic stop. During the ten minute interval at issue, the record showed that the officer was waiting for in-depth background checks and was trying to secure consent to search the vehicle. Therefore, the officer did not act unreasonably by waiting to deploy his K-9 unit for the drug sweep. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability (COA) to challenge petitioner's claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate two other individuals' alleged participation in the murder. The court deferred consideration of the denial of funding in support of this claim until the court's decision on the merits of petitioner's appeal. The court also deferred consideration of the denial of a stay to allow petitioner to exhaust the claim. In regard to all other claims, the court denied a COA and affirmed the district court's denial of investigative funding in support of these claims. View "Nelson v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and three substantive counts of wire fraud, relating to the operation of his company, Gourmet Express. The court held that the IRS agents' search of defendant's home office did not violate the Fourth Amendment and therefore the district court did not err by admitting the seized evidence. In this case, the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. The court rejected defendant's argument that the government violated due process by filing the second superseding indictment and held that the district court did not err in refusing to strike it. The court weighed the four Barker factors and held that plaintiff's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was not violated. Finally, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to support defendant's convictions for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Scully" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his 120 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine base. Defendant argued that his 1994 conviction for robbery, in violation of Texas Penal Code 29.02, does not qualify as a crime of violence in light of the commentary in USSG 4B1.1. The Fifth Circuit denied the government's motion for summary affirmance and granted the government's motion for an extension of time to file its brief. The court held that the government has not addressed whether the holdings in the cases upon which it relies are equally applicable to cases involving section 4B1.2(a), notwithstanding the commentary to that guideline. Therefore, the government has not satisfied the standard for summary affirmance. View "United States v. Arambula" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for two counts of possession with intent to distribute a synthetic cannabinoid. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the jury's finding that defendant acted with the requisite mens rea; sentencing errors in the presentencing report did not affect defendant's sentence and were harmless; and the district court did not err by applying a sentencing enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(12) for maintaining a premises for manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance. View "United States v. Moton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress his statements and confession. Defendant was convicted of possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. The court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, the district court did not clearly err by determining that defendant knowingly waived his Miranda rights. In this case, defendant initially affirmed that he understood his right to an attorney prior to or during interrogation, there was a video of him signing the Spanish translated waiver, he had a second affirmation stating that he understood his rights, and he had an agreement to speak with the agents. View "United States v. Alvarado-Palacio" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law