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June 2012 Archives

The Supreme Court of the United States rules that The Fair Sentencing Act's new, lower mandatory minimums apply to the post-Act sentencing of pre-Act offenders.

BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined.

United States v. Morgan Chase Woods, No. 11-11665 (June 18, 2012)

In United States v. Morgan Chase Woods, No. 11-11665 (June 18, 2012), an appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia that was heard before Circuit Judges Tjoflat, Hull and Kravitch, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court conviction and sentence.

US Supreme Court releases decision

A new development from the Supreme Court of the United States was released to the public earlier this week. In Evans v. Michigan, No. 11-1327, the Supreme Court granted cert this morning to decide whether a court's directed verdict or judgment of acquittal issued at the close of the prosecution's case bars retrial on double jeopardy grounds when that JOA was granted under a misapprehension by the court as to the elements of the charged offense. In Evans, Lamar Evans was charged by the state of Michigan with "burning other real property" for his role in starting a fire in a vacant house. At the conclusion of the prosecutions' case he moved for a directed verdict, arguing that a necessary element of the burning of other real property is that the building was not a dwelling, and that the prosecution's evidence proved that the building burned in his case was a dwelling. The court agreed and granted defendant's motion. The state appealed and the Michigan Supreme Court held that the trial court was mistaken -- the prosecution was not required to prove that the building was not a dwelling. And under these circumstances, the court held -- that is, when a trial court grants a defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the basis of an error of law that did not resolve any factual element of the charged offense -- the trial court's ruling does not constitute an acquittal for the purposes of double jeopardy and retrial is therefore not barred.

What is the Difference Between a Juvenile Defendant and a Youthful Offender?

A juvenile defendant is an individual, under the age of 18, who is facing charges within the juvenile justice system. Unlike the criminal justice system (i.e. adult court), the juvenile justice system is geared towards rehabilitation rather than punishment. Thus, the detention or incarceration of a juvenile defendant is considered a last resort. Juvenile defendants are not tried by a jury. Instead, they are tried by a judge. If convicted, a juvenile defendant is adjudicated delinquent rather than guilty. Juvenile case files are not open to the general public for review and records are often automatically expunged later in life. Clearly, for the reasons stated above, it is a lot better for an underage defendant to be tried within the juvenile justice system rather than the criminal justice system; however, that being said, juvenile defendants are still entitled to be represented by an attorney for several important reasons. First and foremost, just like a defendant in the adult system, a juvenile defendant has legal and constitutional rights that need to be protected. Additionally, juvenile charges can carry negative consequences in the future. For example, a juvenile charge can enhance the sentence of a subsequent juvenile charge or even an adult charge later in life. Also, a juvenile charge can prohibit enlistment in the armed forces.

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