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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy, access device fraud, and identity theft for his role in a fraudulent check-cashing scheme. The court declined to address the standing issue, holding that the officer had reasonable suspicion of illegal activity to extend the traffic stop. Furthermore, the district court did not clearly err by finding that defendant voluntarily consented to the search. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in determining the loss amount; by applying a leadership role sentencing enhancement under USSG 3B1.1(a); and by applying an obstruction of justice sentencing enhancement under USSG 3C1.1. View "United States v. Glenn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. The court affirmed defendant's sentence after he was convicted of illegally entering the United States for the third time. The court held that defendant failed to establish that the district court committed plain error affecting his substantial rights by treating his prior Texas convictions as crimes of violence. The district court made crystal clear that it based defendant's sentence on factors independent of the sentencing guidelines. In this case, the district court determined that defendant's category III sentence was plainly insufficient based on its belief that his earlier sentence failed to deter him. View "United States v. Sanchez-Hernandez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that the order committing defendant for a maximum of four months accords with due process. The court held that, even where the medical evidence indicates that the defendant's condition is permanent, temporary hospitalization bears some reasonable relation to the purpose for that confinement. In this case, defendant was charged with threatening to assault and murder two federal employees. The district court found that he lacked capacity to stand trial and ordered his temporary hospitalization to determine whether he might regain competency in the foreseeable future. The court joined its sister circuits in holding that such mandatory, limited confinement accords with due process. View "United States v. McKown" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied petitioner's motion for a stay of execution, holding that he failed to demonstrate that the circumstances justify the exercise of the court's equitable discretion. The court held that petitioner was unlikely to succeed on the merits of his claim that this case should proceed in federal court without the pressures of a state execution setting. Even even assuming arguendo he could establish a likelihood of success, the other factors also weigh in favor of the state and against a stay. The court explained that, at this point, a denial of his stay motion would not prevent him from fully and fairly litigating the merits of his Rule 60(b)(6) motion before the district court. View "Crutsinger v. Davis" on Justia Law

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On remand, the case was tried before a jury which determined that defendant had used unconstitutionally excessive force against Quamaine Mason but was nevertheless entitled to qualified immunity. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that, although the parties might better have relied in their briefs on Supreme Court precedent from the ensuing three decades following Young v. City of Killeen, 775 F.2d 1349 (5th Cir. 1985), the trial court's reliance on that case as a general matter was not misplaced. The court also held that there was no error by submitting to the jury two jury interrogatories, one on unconstitutional excessive force and one on qualified immunity; the verdict was not fatally inconsistent; and, following a properly conducted trial, the court was required to sustain the jury's verdict on the fact issues. View "Mason v. Faul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellants, pro se, asserted interests in a convicted criminal defendant's property that was subject to criminal forfeiture and criminal restitution. The district court denied their motions for ancillary hearings and return of property. The Fifth Circuit applied the standard of review under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 to the pleading-stage dismissal of a petition for an ancillary proceeding; held that appellants' appeals were timely because the deadline for a civil notice of appeal applied; held that Appellant Huma's petition for ancillary hearing did not state a claim under 21 U.S.C. 853(n), where she has not demonstrated the existence of the necessary written security agreement to establish her as a secured creditor with a lien on the cash or devices, and she cannot demonstrate that she is a bona fide purchaser for value of that property; and held that Appellant Salahuddin presented no persuasive allegation that he has a priority claim to the cash senior to the restitution lien of the United States, but has adequately alleged a secured interest in the devices at issue. Therefore, the court vacated in part, remanded in part, and otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Butt" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a special discovery hearing concerning the adequacy of trial counsel's representation and the district court's decision to decline to recharacterize the discovery motion as a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in declining to recharacterize defendant's special discovery motion as a section 2255 motion because it failed to construe the motion liberally and denied him the protections of the Great Writ. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded, expressing no view on the merits. View "United States v. Elam" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for distributing crack cocaine, aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, and conspiring to distribute powder and crack cocaine. The court held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress where exigent circumstances existed justifying the warrantless search, and the officers did not create the exigency. In this case, after officers knocked on defendant's motel room, they heard running throughout the room and the sound of a toilet flushing, which could reasonably suggest that the room's occupants were attempting to destroy evidence. The court also held that the district court did not commit harmful error by not requiring an adverse witness to testify, because the Sixth Amendment did not require the witness to testify. Finally, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant, and rejected defendant's remaining contentions. View "United States v. Daniels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for taking action that was designed to prevent or hamper his removal from the United States, in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1253(a)(1)(C). The court held that the relevant statutory phrase, "connives or conspires, or takes any other action," contains none of the contextual fuses that trigger the statutory canons of construction ejusdem generis and noscitur a sociis. Rather, the court held that the phrase's structure conveys that "takes any other action" has independent meaning, which easily encompasses defendant's solo efforts to thwart his removal. The court also held that an officer's testimony that airline personnel denied defendant boarding did not implicate the Confrontation Clause, and, even if it did, any error was harmless. View "United States v. Buluc" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court's order transferring his motion for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) to this court. The Fifth Circuit held that the motion was not a successive habeas petition and therefore vacated the order of transfer. However, based on circuit precedent binding on this panel, the court held that it lacked jurisdiction to treat the transfer order and defendant's requests for relief in this court as a request for a certificate of appealability. Therefore, the court remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Crutsinger v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law