Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motions to suppress evidence and defendant's 57 month sentence. The court held that the district court properly denied the motion to suppress evidence gathered during an inventory search where the officers followed departmental policy in impounding and inventorying his vehicle, and an inventory search conducted according to standard departmental policies was reasonable. Furthermore, the district court properly denied the motion to suppress evidence gathered during a search of defendant's vehicle where an officer observed crack cocaine in plain view inside the car before initiating the search. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a sentence at the bottom of the Sentencing Guidelines range and the sentence was substantively reasonable. In this case, the district court allotted relatively greater weight to the nature and circumstances of the offense than to the mitigating personal characteristics of defendant. View "United States v. Dunn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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When confronted with disputed fact issues, a district court may rely on relevant hearsay evidence and other evidence that is inadmissible under the rules of evidence so long as that evidence possesses sufficient indicia of reliability to support its probable accuracy. The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute actual methamphetamine. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion as to the hearsay evidence defendant objected to; did not plainly err as to the unobjected-to testimony; and did not clearly err in regard to its findings of drug quantity, defendant's possession of a firearm, and his role in the offense. The court also held that the district court's denial of defendant's requested downward departure was unreviewable and the district court was within its discretion to rely primarily on the seriousness of the offense, defendant's extensive role in the conspiracy, and his criminal history. View "United States v. Angeles-Moctezuma" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's resentence after he was convicted of conspiring to retaliate against a federal witness. The court held that the district court did not err by applying an eight-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2J1.2(b)(1)(B) to defendant's offense level for the witness-retaliation charge where he triggered the enhancement the moment he sent a threat by way of his friend. The court rejected defendant's contention that, under Burrage v. United States, 571 U.S. 204 (2014), the government had to prove defendant's efforts were the singular cause of the threats, as opposed to incidental, tangential, or even contributing causes. In this case, the action required to apply the enhancement occurred when defendant dispatched his friend with the threatening message. View "United States v. Tywin Bender" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Applying plain error review, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence, holding that the officers' alleged violation of the knock-and-announce rule had nothing to do with their seizure of the gun, drugs, and cash in defendant's hotel room pursuant to their search warrant. In this case, the warrant was based solely on evidence obtained prior to the officers' entry. Therefore, the court explained that regardless of whether the officers violated the knock-and-announce rule, they still would have obtained and executed the warrant and discovered the aforementioned evidence. View "United States v. Diaz-Ortiz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's special condition of supervised release imposed after he pleaded guilty to production of child pornography and to commission of a felony offense involving a minor. The court held that the district court did not plainly err by imposing a special condition that prohibited defendant from possessing or using a computer or have access to any online service without prior approval of the probation officer. The court reasoned that the special condition did not involve a greater deprivation of liberty than was reasonably necessary and it was not a complete ban on Internet access. Furthermore, there was ample evidence that defendant used his devices for activities beyond simply possessing child pornography, including producing child pornography. View "United States v. Perrin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor. Because defendant did not object to the fact of the tribal convictions or of any tribal arrests, or to the factual descriptions of the convictions and arrests as contained in the PSR, the court reviewed his claim for plain error. The court held that the sentence was not procedurally unreasonable and the district court did not plainly err by relying on any information that was not otherwise available to the court or to the parties. The court also held that the sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing an upward variance of 23 months. In this case, the district court did not give significant weight to the disparity between defendant's state and federal sentences, and properly relied on the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. View "United States v. Cloud" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for assaulting a United States Postal Service employee in violation of 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1). The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err by preventing defendant from presenting a voluntary-intoxication defense because such a defense was unavailable to defendants being charged under section 111(a)(1) where assaulting a federal employee was a general intent crime. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction. The court also held that Condition 5 of defendant's supervised release was broader than the condition the district court imposed orally. Because it was not clear from the sentencing transcript and other portions of the record exactly how long the district court intended the alcohol-prohibiting condition to apply or whether that issue was moot, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to clarify its position. View "United States v. Gustus" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendants Guzman and Morales' conviction for drug-related offenses. The court affirmed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to suppress evidence obtained from the stop of a minivan where defendants were specifically identified as the occupants of the van before the stop and thus the officers had probable cause to believe that they were in the vehicle. The court affirmed Guzman's sentence and held that Dean v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1170 (2017), was inapplicable in this case and the district court did not have to vary his sentence downward. The court rejected Morales' claims of evidentiary error and held that his sentence was not procedurally unreasonable. The district court correctly determined that Morales' base offense level, and did not err by imposing sentencing enhancements under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1) for possession of a dangerous weapon, USSG 2D1.1(b)(2) for making a credible threat of violence; and USSG 3B1.1(a) for being an organizer or leader of a criminal activity that involved five or more participants. View "United States v. Guzman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendants Williams and Jefferson's sentences imposed after they each pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony. The court held that Williams' prior Minnesota conviction for simple robbery qualified as a crime of violence, and his prior conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime qualified as a controlled substance offense for purposes of sentencing under USSG 4B1.2(b)cmt. n. 1. The court also held that Jefferson's within-guidelines sentence was not substantively unreasonable, because it was not unconstitutional and the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a three-year term of supervised release. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was found guilty by a jury of two drug crimes. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's refusal to exclude testimony of a police detective regarding the value of the methamphetamine. The court assumed without deciding that the government's notice was deficient and held that defendant knew ahead of time that one of the expected topics of the detective's testimony would be the dollar values of the methamphetamine and defense counsel had the opportunity to question the detective beforehand. Finally, counsel never explained how the incomplete disclosure prejudiced his client or why only a more drastic remedy like exclusion would cure any harm. View "United States v. Kessler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law