May, 2015

Connecticut:  Decisions Expanding 8th Amendment Rights Don’t Bar Mandatory Minimums for Juveniles

The Connecticut Supreme Court held that the U.S. Supreme Court’s trilogy of decisions expanding the Eighth Amendment protections for juvenile offenders doesn’t prohibit the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed before an offender’s 18th birthday.  The court decided that the Eighth Amendment’s requirement that sentencing judges consider the features of youth that make juveniles less culpable is satisfied by a judge’s authority to impose a sentence between a mandatory minimum and a statutory maximum and to impose concurrent sentences.  State v. Taylor, 2015 BL 65699 (Conn., No. SC 19222, 03-17-15); full text at

Eighth Circuit:  Addition of Charges After Successful Appeal Did Not Raise Presumption of Vindictiveness

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that a presumption of vindictiveness is not supported by the government’s addition of new charges following a defendant’s successful appeal, even where there is no newly discovered evidence underlying the new charges.  United States v. Chappell, 2015 BL 64866, (8th Cir., No. 13-1748, 03-11-15); full text at _BL_64866_8th_Cir_Mar_11_2.

Massachusetts:  Juvenile Offender Serving Life in Prison Gets Attorney, Expert at First Parole Hearing

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the constitutional requirement that juvenile offenders serving life in prison be given a meaningful opportunity for release demands the additional procedural protections of appointed counsel, appointed experts, and judicial review in connection with the offenders’ initial parole hearings.  Diatchenko v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District, 2015 BL 78327 (Mass., No. SJC-11688, 03-23-15); full text at

Florida:  Florida Supreme Court Says Long Term Can Be Equivalent to De Facto Life Sentence

The Florida Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment’s limits on sentences of life imprisonment without parole for crimes committed by offenders less than 18 years old applies to sentences to terms of years that are the “functional equivalent” of life without parole.  The court held that sentences of this nature (30 years plus a consecutive 60 years for other offenses) amounted to de facto life sentences without parole in violation of the 8th Amendment.  Henry v. State, 2015 BL 74540, (Fla., No. SC12-578, 03-19-15); full text at _BL_74540_Fla_Mar_19_2015_Court_O

Georgia:  Consent in Implied-Consent Laws Can’t be Used to Circumvent McNeely

The Georgia Supreme Court held that a man who submitted to a blood draw after being told that his license would be automatically suspended under the state’s implied-consent law if he refused, didn’t voluntarily waive his Fourth Amendment rights.  The court stated that motorists who acquiesce to the test thinking that they have no other choice, haven’t freely consented to the warrantless search.  Mere compliance with statutory implied-consent requirements does not, per se, equate to actual, and therefore voluntary, consent on the part of the suspect so as to be an exception to the constitutional mandate of a warrant.  Williams v. State, 2015 BL 85849 (Ga., No. S14A1625, 03-27-15); full text at _BL_85849_Ga_Mar_27_2015_Court_O.

First Circuit:  Government Gets Second Chance to Offer Sufficient Evidence of Conspiracy

The First Circuit held that the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause doesn’t bar the government from reprosecuting a defendant for a smaller, more focused drug conspiracy following an appellate holding that the government failed at an earlier trial to present sufficient evidence of a larger, overlapping drug conspiracy.  The prior convictions were reversed due to a material variance and not due to the insufficiency of the evidence.  United States v. Szpyt, 2015 BL 95695 (1st Cir., No. 13-1543, 04-03-15); full text at .

New York:  N.Y. Suspect’s ‘Selective Silence’ at Interview Can’t be Used in Prosecution’s Case-in-Chief

The New York Court of Appeals held that the prosecution can’t put on evidence in its case-in-chief that an arrestee “selectively answered some police questions but not others.”  The court stated that a “defendant who agrees to speak to the police but refuses to answer certain questions may have the same legitimate or innocent reasons for refusing to answer as a defendant who refuses to speak to the police at all.”  People v. Williams, 2015 BL 97844, (N.Y., No. 34, 04-07-15); full text at

First Circuit:  Appeal Waiver Doesn’t Block Challenge to Unconstitutional Supervised Release Terms

The First Circuit held that a man whose plea deal for failing to register as a sex offender included a general waiver of the right to appeal was not barred from challenging a special condition of supervised release regarding contact with minors that effectively blocked him from having a meaningful relationship with his nine-year-old son.  United States v. Del Valle-Cruz, 2015 BL 96790 (1st Cir., No. 13-1050, 04-06-15); full text at http://

Second Circuit:  Southern Union Doctrine Does Not Govern Restitution Award for Illegal Lobster Harvest

The Second Circuit held that the rule that juries, not judges, must make any factual finding used to boost a fine beyond its statutory maximum doesn’t apply to the calculation of restitution awards.  The court stated that restitution is a restorative remedy that compensates victims for the market value of their loss and, therefore, can’t be said to have increased the defendant’s punishment beyond the “statutory maximum.”  United States v. Bengis, 2015 BL 107773, (2d Cir., No. 13-2543-cr(L), 04-16-15); full text at _BL_107773_2d_Cir_Apr_16.

Tenth Circuit: Suppression Judges Don’t Need Reason to Reconsider New Evidence and Arguments

The Tenth Circuit held that prosecutors who lose suppression rulings after failing to present essential evidence or make critical legal arguments don’t need an excuse for the lapses to get district judges to reconsider in light of the unpresented evidence or unmade arguments. The court stated that when “suppressed evidence later turns out to have been constitutionally obtained; application of the exclusionary rule provides no meaningful deterrence [of police misconduct].”  United States v. Huff, 2015 BL 104671 (10th Cir., No. 13-3216, 04-14-15); full text at _BL_104671_10th_Cir_Apr_14_201.

Tenth Circuit:  Two-Hour Blockade of 20 Vehicles in Search for Bank Robbery Was Reasonable

The Tenth Circuit held that police didn’t act unreasonably when they swarmed a crowded intersection and detained 20 vehicles for over two hours as they systematically removed passengers at gunpoint while searching for a man who had robbed a bank just minutes earlier.  The court stated that the public interest in apprehending an armed robber outweighed the intrusions on private liberty.  United States v. Paetsch, 2015 BL 99180, (10th Cir., No. 13-1169, 04-08-15); full text at _BL_99180_10th_Cir_Apr_08_2.

Arkansas:  Defense Counsel Need Not Tell Client About Prosecutor’s Inquiry Short of Plea Deal

The Arkansas Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s standards for effective assistance of counsel don’t require defense counsel to tell clients that the prosecution asked counsel whether the defense was interested in plea bargaining.  The prosecutor provided an affidavit stating that there was no plea offer, and only a formal offer triggers counsel’s duty to inform the defendant.  Leach v. State, 2015 BL 102906 (Ark., No. CR-15-35, 04-09-15); full text at