Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2241, holding that, although Appellant has been detained pending reveal proceedings since April 2016, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment did not entitle Appellant to a new bond hearing at which the government would bear the burden of justifying his continued detention. Appellant entered the United States on a tourist visa, which he overstayed. A year later, an Interpol "Red Notice" requested by Russian identified Appellant as a fugitive wanted for prosecution on criminal fraud charges. On April 22, 2016, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Appellant under 8 U.S.C. 1226(a) and initiated removal proceedings, which are still pending in an immigration court. Appellant filed this action alleging that his continued detention deprived him of due process unless the government could show clear and convincing evidence of risk of flight or danger to the community. The district court dismissed the petition. The Third Circuit affirmed. The dissent argued that where the Russian government has been employing Interpol Red Notices to pursue and harass opponents of the Russian regime and where Appellant had no criminal record anywhere, Appellant was entitled to a new hearing to review the finding of “danger to the community.” View "Borbot v. Warden Hudson County Correctio" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit held that New Jersey’s drug-trafficking law of which Petitioner was convicted is coextensive with its federal counterpart and that on the date of Petitioner’s conviction, New Jersey’s list of drugs was no broader than the federal list, making Petitioner removable. Petitioner was convicted of four drug-related crimes under New Jersey law. For the latter three counts, the jury was instructed that it could convict Petitioner for attempting to transfer cocaine or to aid another in distributing cocaine. Thereafter, Petitioner was charged as removable. The government claimed (1) Petitioner’s New Jersey drug-distribution convictions under N.J. Stat. Ann. 2C:35-5(a)(1)&(b)(1) match the federal Controlled Substances Act’s ban on drug trafficking, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), making Petitioner removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) for having been convicted of an aggravated felony; and (2) Petitioner’s convictions related to federally controlled substances, and therefore, Petitioner was removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) for having been convicted of a controlled-substance offense. The immigration judge sustained the charges. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Third Circuit held that Petitioner was removable and ineligible for cancellation of removal because (1) New Jersey attempt law is coextensive with federal law, and (2) on the date of his conviction, Petitioner was convicted of a controlled-substance offense that is an aggravated felony. View "Martinez v. Attorney General, United States" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit vacated Defendant’s sentence, which included as a condition of his supervised release from prison a restriction on Defendant’s possession or use of computers or other electronic communication devices, holding that the restrictions were not tailored to the danger Defendant posed. Defendant pleaded guilty to using the internet to attempt to entice a child into engage in sexual acts. Defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment and a lifetime of supervised release. When Defendant violated the terms of his supervised release, a revocation hearing was held at which the judge imposed the condition forbidding Defendant to possess or use any computers, electronic communications devices, or electronic storage devices. The Third Circuit remanded for a new revocation hearing, concluding that restricting Defendant’s internet access was necessary to protect the public but that Defendant’s current conditions were not tailored to the danger he posed. View "United States v. Holena" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, a police officer, on Plaintiff’s action brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that the district court correctly found that the statute of limitations barred Plaintiff’s claims. After Defendant stopped Plaintiff’s car, searched him, and arrested him, Pennsylvania prosecuted him. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence, but the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. Defendant later brought this suit asserting that Defendant conducted an unreasonable search and seizure and made a false arrest. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the statute of limitations ran from the time of the search rather than when the Pennsylvania court held the search unconstitutional; and (2) therefore, Defendant’s claim was time-barred. View "Nguyen v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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At age 14 Schonewolf began smoking marijuana. By age 15 she left home and dropped out of school. Schonewolf developed a drinking problem and attempted suicide several times before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Schonewolf’s use of opiates began with prescription painkillers following a car accident; after her doctor’s retirement, she used heroin to satisfy her addiction. In 2010, Schonewolf was arrested with 12 pounds of methamphetamine in her car, which she was transporting for her father. Schonewolf pled guilty and was sentenced to time served, plus 60 months’ supervised release. Schonewolf began using heroin again and was caught attempting to purchase the drug, resulting in Pennsylvania misdemeanor charges and a violation of supervised release. Her probation officer withdrew the violation petition because Schonewolf was in a detox program. Schonewolf suffered an overdose and left treatment. At her revocation hearing, the government indicated that Schonewolf was again in treatment. The court sentenced Schonewolf to one day in prison, followed by her pre-existing term of supervised release. Schonewolf was later found to be selling heroin, pled guilty, and is currently serving a state sentence. Schonewolf’s probation officer filed another violation petition. The Guidelines range for Schonewolf’s sentence was 24-30 months’ imprisonment. The court sentenced Schonewolf to 40 months, consecutive to her state sentence. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the court based the sentence on Schonewolf’s need for drug rehabilitation, in violation of the Sentencing Reform Act and the Supreme Court’s 2011 "Tapia" ruling. Schonewolf’s sentence was based on past lenity. A court does not violate the Act or Tapia merely by mentioning the need for rehabilitation. View "United States v. Schonewolf" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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An anonymous source called 911 to report a Hispanic male pointing a gun at juveniles outside a vacant Philadelphia flower shop. The suspect was reportedly wearing a gray shirt, gray pants, and a bucket hat. Office Mulqueeney, who had worked that area for 13 years and knew about the drug and firearm activity prevalent there, was dispatched. He approached De Castro and his neighbor, who were speaking outside of the vacant flower shop. De Castro was wearing a light gray bucket hat, a gray striped shirt, and gray camouflage pants. Mulqueeney asked De Castro to remove his hands from his pockets. De Castro complied, revealing a pistol grip protruding from his pants pocket. Mulqueeney asked De Castro to raise his hands and removed a loaded firearm from De Castro’s pocket. De Castro had neither identification or a permit to carry the firearm but had a passport from the Dominican Republic. Mulqueeney handcuffed and frisked De Castro, finding a loaded magazine. De Castro was convicted as an alien in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(A), following the denial of his motion to suppress all statements and physical evidence. The Third Circuit affirmed. Mulqueeney’s request that De Castro remove his hands from his pockets did not constitute a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Mulqueeney “neither ordered nor repeatedly asked De Castro to comply" but used a conversational tone to communicate his request from a distance of at least five feet, with his weapon holstered and without physical touching; a reasonable person would have felt free to decline Mulqueeney’s lone request. View "United States v. De Castro" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Richardson and his son burgled two empty homes and fled from police. During a high-speed car chase, he rammed into a police car and crashed into a utility pole. He was convicted of burglary, criminal conspiracy, theft, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and flight from a police officer. Mid-sentencing, Richardson decided that he was dissatisfied with his lawyer and sought to fire him. The sentencing judge treated Richardson’s request as waiving his right to counsel but did not, as the Sixth Amendment requires, question Richardson to ensure that his waiver was knowing and voluntary. Richardson’s post-sentencing and state-habeas lawyers both overlooked this error. The Third Circuit remanded to the district court to grant habeas corpus relief and order a new sentencing hearing. In Pennsylvania state court, the post-sentencing-motions stage is a critical stage at which a defendant is entitled to the effective assistance of counsel. Richardson was denied that right because his post-sentencing lawyer was ineffective. The line dividing trial from appeal falls naturally at the notice of appeal. Post-sentencing motions precede the notice of appeal, so they fall on the trial side of the line; when a state-habeas lawyer fails to raise a post-sentencing lawyer’s ineffectiveness, the prisoner may raise that issue for the first time in his federal habeas petition. Richardson’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim is meritorious. View "Richardson v. Superintendent Coal Township SCI" on Justia Law

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Abdullah pled guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court concluded that he was subject to a sentencing enhancement for being a career offender under USSG 4B1.1, based in part on Abdullah’s 2015 conviction for third-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon under New Jersey Statutes 2C:12- 1(b)(2). Abdullah argued that the conviction was not for a “crime of violence.” The Third Circuit affirmed his 176-month sentence. New Jersey’s aggravated assault statute is divisible and it is possible to identify the specific subsection under which Abdullah was convicted; that specific aggravated assault offense categorically qualify as a predicate crime of violence under the guidelines. View "United States v. Abdullah" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Personnel at a Virgin Islands airport smuggled cocaine onto flights bound for the U.S. mainland. Noel, a ground services supervisor at St. Thomas’s Airport, and three other employees were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and related possession offenses. The jury convicted Noel on all charges. The court sentenced him to 151 months’ imprisonment. More than a year later, Noel moved for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence of juror misconduct. The district court denied the motion without a hearing. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting Noel’s arguments that the district court’s limitation on the cross-examination of his codefendants violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause; that the district court abused its discretion in denying his new trial motion without an evidentiary hearing; and that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict. Even assuming the limitation “significantly inhibited” Noel’s exercise of his right to probe the codefendants’ “motivation in testifying,” it is not clear that the barred line of inquiry might have given the jury a “significantly different impression of credibility.” Before his trial began, Noel was aware that the court had impaneled a security officer working on a contract basis for the U.S. Marshals Service; he produced no evidence that a specific, nonspeculative impropriety occurred to justify a new trial. View "United States v. Noel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Guerrero-Sanchez attempted to unlawfully enter the U.S.in 1998. He was removed back to Mexico. Guerrero-Sanchez reentered the U.S. without inspection. In 2012, he was arrested for his role in an Idaho-based drug trafficking organization. Guerrero-Sanchez pled guilty and was sentenced to 42 months of imprisonment. ICE reinstated his 1998 order of removal, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(5). The Third Circuit denied his petition for review and motion for stay of the reinstated removal order. Guerrero-Sanchez completed his sentence and was transferred to ICE custody pending removal. An asylum officer concluded that Guerrero-Sanchez's claim that he would be tortured by a drug cartel if removed to Mexico was reasonable and referred the matter to an immigration judge. The IJ found that he was ineligible for withholding relief under section 1231(b)(3) because he committed a particularly serious crime and that he did not qualify for Convention Against Torture relief because he did not establish that the Mexican Government would consent to or be willfully blind to torture. While his case remained pending before the BIA, Guerrero-Sanchez sought habeas relief, challenging his detention while he awaits a determination on whether he will be afforded country-specific protection from removal. The district court granted the petition. The Third Circuit affirmed. The detention of an alien, who has a reinstated order of removal but is also pursuing withholding-only relief is governed by the post-removal law, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a) rather than section 1226(a), the pre-removal statute; section 1231(a)(6) compels an implicit bond hearing requirement after prolonged detention. View "Guerrero-Sanchez v. Warden York County Prison" on Justia Law