The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was created as a way to assist state, local, and tribal jurisdictions more effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes. William Hatch, a man from New Mexico, was one of the first people charged under the federal statute after participating in a hate crime. This week the Supreme Court has refused to review the hate crime conviction of Hatch.
The different defenses that are available for a criminal defendant vary with each case and the facts surrounding that case. One defense that is available for some defendants is that the defendant is not competent to stand trial. However, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday that this may not be a valid defense anymore.
A conviction for drug distribution under the federal Controlled Substances Act can carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. "If death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance," however, the mandatory minimum sentence doubles to 20 years.
The U.S. Supreme Court has just agreed to hear two cases about whether law enforcement should be allowed, without a warrant, to seize and go through the cellphones of anyone they arrest. In one case, the cellphone was an old-fashioned type with minimal functionality beyond talking, texting and taking photos. The other case involved a smartphone -- the kind that's essentially a mini-computer containing virtually every detail of the user's life. Law enforcement was easily able to pull crucial evidence from each type of phone, so should the distinction matter?
In 2007, a grand jury indicted a husband-and-wife pair of medical equipment sales representatives for federal offenses including conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. Apparently, when hospitals bought new medical equipment, many were only too happy to let the sales reps take the used equipment away. Since their employers didn't want it, the reps resold the equipment on the "gray market" in Florida.
In Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013), the United States Supreme Court held that in DUI investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.
Alleyne v. U.S., No. 11-9335 (U.S. Sup. Ct. June 17, 2013) (Justice Thomas)
The justices of the Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in two Florida cases concerning drug-sniffing dogs. The court's rulings could affect how the use of these dogs affects people's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari last week in Alleyne v. United States, No. 11-9335. The federal question of importance is whether under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a jury, not a judge, must find that the defendant brandished a firearm in order to trigger the seven (7) year mandatory minimum under 18 USC 924(c). Essentially, what the High Court will decide is whether the precedent set forth in Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002) should be overturned. In the instant case, the federal indictment alleged that defendant Alleyne "did knowingly use, carry, brandish, and possess a firearm during and in relation to and in furtherance of" a robbery. The jury was given a special verdict form and he was acquitted of brandishing. This is a gigantic step forward for federal defendants. We will keep you posted as to oral arguments and ultimately the decision.
The test provided by the plurality decision is that "there must be a direct causal link between the restriction imposed and the injury to be prevented."