Articles Posted in General Criminal Defense

Police need a warrant to search a cellphone, but the issue of whether law enforcement can compel someone to divulge a passcode has not been resolved. According to Apple News the Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue and the state supreme courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey may soon address the issue.

[https://apple.news/A8OwSxUtASey41s7HmTm8HQa] Police are increasingly relying on social media as a way to investigate suspects. Access to an accused’s cell phone can often provide incriminating evidence that is difficult to refute. So police argue that obtaining a cell phone’s passcode is essential for police work.

Passcodes necessary for Police Work

Youth  are generally viewed as having less culpability under criminal law than adults who commit similar crimes. The mitigating factors of a defendant’s youth can be used to argue for a court to exercise its discretion to strike enhancements. For example,  under section 12022.5, subdivision (c) a court may  dismiss or strike the sentence enhancement imposed for personal use of a firearm during commission of a felony.

History of Youth Offender Hearings

Senate Bill 260 took effect on January 1, 2014. The law created a special youth offender parole hearing for inmates who committed their controlling offense before reaching age 18. The intent of the law was to “establish a parole eligibility mechanism that provides a person serving a sentence for crimes that he or she committed as a juvenile the opportunity to obtain release when he or she has shown that he or she has been rehabilitated and gained maturity.” It was also intended to “create a process by which growth and maturity of youthful offenders can be assessed and a meaningful opportunity for release established.”

Definition of Prima Facie

Prima Facie is Latin for “at first sight” and means based on what seems to be the truth when first seen or heard. Prima facie may be used as an adjective meaning “sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted.” An example of this would be to use the term “prima facie evidence.”

It may also be used as an adverb meaning “on first appearance but subject to further evidence or information.” An example of this would be to use the term “prima facie valid.”

Trial Court may impose additional release conditions even after a defendant has posted bail

In re Webb, 2019 WL 2220410, S247074,May 23, 2019

Bettie Webb was arrested and charged with two felony counts of bringing controlled substances in to state prion and unauthorized possession of a controlled substance in a prison. She posted $50,000 bail and was released from custody. At arraignment, she pleaded not guilty to the charges. Over her objection, the court imposed, as an additional condition of release, that she waive her Fourth Amendment right to be free of warrantless or unreasonable searches.

Anthony Taylor filed a habeas petition claiming that his special circumstance finding in a felony murder conviction should be vacated due to insufficient evidence based on recent caselaw. His petition, filed 20 years after finality of direct review, was considered timely because it was brought within a year of that recent caselaw that provided him with a legal claim.

Taylor’s conviction as an idea and abettor

Anthony Taylor participated in an attempted robbery at a Livermore liquor store during which one of his accomplices shot to death a store employee. In 1994, Taylor was convicted of first degree felony murder and the jury found that the killing occurred in the commission of an attempted robbery that he aided and abetted “as a major participant” and “with reckless indifference to human life,” a special circumstance requiring a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole under Penal Code section 190.2, subdivision (d) (section 190.2(d) ). The special circumstance finding was previously upheld on appeal, the Court fining that Taylor was both a major participant and had made statements after the murder that showed a reckless and callous indifference for human life.

Lawyer cannot override client’s decision to maintain innocence

Roberto Ignacio Flores was charged with attempted murder of a police officer and insisted he was not the driver of the car that injured the officer. His lawyer wanted to admit that Flores was driving the car but that he never formed the premeditated intent necessary for a conviction of first-degree murder. The evidence against Flores included a video of him in the car that hit the motorcycle officer, yet he insisted on maintaining his innocence. Flores was also later tried on possession of weapons and his lawyer wanted to concede that Flores possessed certain firearms but argue that his possession was not “knowing”because he did not know that their possession was prohibited.

Client has the right to determine fundamental objective at trial

People v. Aranda; S214116

The California Supreme Court reaffirmed its past holding that a court must accept a partial verdict of acquittal as to a charged greater offense when a jury has expressly indicated it has acquitted on that offense but has deadlocked on uncharged lesser included offenses. [Stone v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 503 (Stone)]

The Stone Rule and Federal Double Jeopardy Principles

Lawyer cannot concede client is guilty when client insists on a defense of factual innocence

Defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and using a knife in the commission of the crime after his lawyer conceded his guilt of voluntary manslaughter during closing argument. Defendant’s request to replace counsel was denied at sentencing and the court and imposed a sentence of 25 years to life, plus one year for the knife enhancement.

The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and held that the Defendant’s absolute Sixth Amendment right to maintain his innocence was violated when counsel conceded guilt of voluntary manslaughter during closing argument, despite the defendant disagreeing  with the strategy. It did not matter that defendant did not consistently assert his right to maintain innocence or object to counsel’s concession until after he was convicted.

The State of Alabama set an execution date for prisoner who then asserted an Eight Amendment Claim because his mental condition, relating to a series of strokes, rendered him incapable of recollecting committing the crime for which he had been sentenced to die. The Alabama Circuit Court found that the  prisoner was competent to be executed. Certiorari was granted.

The Supreme Court, Justice Kagan, held that:

A mental disorder that leaves a prisoner without any memory of committing his crime does not necessarily preclude execution; dementia may preclude execution; and the Supreme Court was unsure whether the state court relied on an incorrect view of the law, i.e., that only delusions, and not dementia, could preclude execution, and thus, state court’s judgment was vacated, and the case remanded.