Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that Chapter 313 of Title 18, and 18 U.S.C. 4248 in particular, did not authorize the district court to dismiss the section 4248 proceeding against respondent on the ground that he was found to be mentally incompetent. The court also held that section 4248 does not violate the Due Process Clause and that the risk of an erroneous deprivation of respondent's liberty interest is substantially and adequately mitigated by the broad array of procedures required for a section 4248 commitment, particularly as they apply to incompetent persons. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions that the district court promptly conduct a section 4248 hearing to determine whether respondent is sexually dangerous and therefore must be committed to the custody of the Attorney General. View "United States v. White" on Justia Law

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The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 may be constitutionally applied to an unarmed assault of a victim engaged in commercial activity at his place of work. In this case, defendant admitted to physically and violently assaulting a coworker preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment because of the coworker's sexual orientation. After defendant was convicted by a jury for violating the Act, the district court granted defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal based on the grounds that the Act, as applied to defendant's conduct, exceeded Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause. The Fourth Circuit reversed and held that, as applied to defendant's conduct, the Act easily fell under Congress's broad authority to regulate commerce. In this case, the victim was assaulted while preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment at an Amazon fulfillment center. Therefore, defendant's assault of the victim interfered with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim was engaged at the time of the conduct. View "United States v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court held that defendant's prior Maryland conviction for assault with intent to murder qualified as a violent felony under the force clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). In this case, assault with intent to murder constituted a statutory aggravated form of assault and, coupled with a specific intent to murder, fell within the ACCA's definition of a violent felony and was a predicate offense for purposes of the ACCA. View "United States v. Battle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's pretrial motion to suppress evidence after he was convicted of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. The court held that the warrant affidavit prepared by an officer was sufficient to establish probable cause for the magistrate to issue the search warrant. The court also affirmed the district court's imposition of a sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), holding that defendant's prior offense for criminal domestic violence under South Carolina law categorically qualified as violent felonies. Therefore, defendant had the three predicate convictions for purposes of the ACCA. View "United States v. Drummond" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's refusal to dismiss defendant's indictment for illegal reentry. Defendant was indicted more than ten years after the government learned that he had unlawfully reentered the United States. The court held that the record supported the district court's factual finding that defendant was fleeing from justice, thus tolling the statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. 3290. In this case, defendant's aliases and the circumstances surrounding his skipped court dates together support a plausible narrative that he sought to evade prosecution by giving police false information and then twice failing to appear in court when ordered to do so. View "United States v. De Leon-Ramirez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's term of supervised release and sentence of 36 months in prison. The court held that the district court plainly erred by entering an order revoking defendant's supervised release on the basis that he possessed crack cocaine with intent to distribute it, because the record contained no evidence that the drug involved in the violation was crack cocaine. However, the district court's error did not affect defendant's substantial rights, because his violation for possessing and intending to distribute cocaine—like such a violation for crack cocaine—constituted a Grade A violation of supervised release requiring the district court to revoke his supervised release term. Therefore, the outcome would have been the same, no matter whether the substance was cocaine or crack cocaine. View "United States v. Dennison" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that the doctrine of fugitive tolling applies in this case, extending the period of time during which the district court was authorized to sanction defendant's violations. Defendant returned to the United States without permission, and in violation of his term of supervised release, by using an alias to avoid detection for several years. When defendant was finally apprehended and charged with violating the conditions of his supervised release, he argued that the government was too late because his five year supervised release term had expired. The court held that questions remained about the precise duration of that tolling, and whether the fugitive tolling doctrine or some other legal provision authorized the district court to impose sanctions in January of 2018. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's supervised release order and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Thompson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, and attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. The court held that there was no fatal variance between the indictment and the evidence offered at trial; the district court did not commit reversible error by refusing to give a multiple conspiracy charge; the district court did not err in refusing to sever defendant's trial from his codefendants'; and the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for acquittal because the evidence was sufficient to convict him. Finally, the court held that defendant's claim that the government engaged in "outrageous conduct" and violated defendant's due process rights was without merit. View "United States v. Cannady" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision holding that conditions of confinement on Virginia's death row violated the Eighth Amendment and enjoining reinstatement of those conditions. Virginia death row inmates spent between 23 and 24 hours a day alone, in a small cell with no access to congregate religious, educational, or social programming. Inmates were denied access to any form of congregate recreation, either indoor or outdoor, and were not allowed to eat meals outside of their cells. The court held that the challenged conditions on Virginia's death row deprived inmates of the basic human need for meaningful social interaction and positive environmental stimulation. Furthermore, the undisputed evidence established that deprivation posed a substantial risk of serious psychological and emotional harm and state defendants were deliberately indifferent to that risk. View "Porter v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision that petitioner was deportable for committing an aggravated felony within the meaning of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court held that petitioner's convictions for taking custodial indecent liberties with a child under Virginia Code 18.2-370.1(A) qualified categorically as an aggravated felony of sexual abuse of a minor under the INA. View "Thompson v. Barr" on Justia Law