Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The offense of unlawful wounding under West Virginia law is a crime of violence under Section 4B1.2 of the Sentencing Guidelines. The Fourth Circuit held that unlawful wounding is categorically a crime of violence under the force clause because it applies to a defendant who shoots, stabs, cuts, or wounds any person. Therefore, the statute's text dictates that the minimum conduct required for conviction of unlawful wounding must at least involve physical force capable of causing physical injury to another person. Because the district court concluded that unlawful wounding did not qualify as a crime of violence in this case, the court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Covington" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A civil commitment hearing under the Adam Walsh Act, 18 U.S.C. 4248, was not a "civil action" as that term is used in 18 U.S.C. 1658(a). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's civil commitment order under the Act and rejected petitioner's claim that the four-year catch-all statute of limitations Congress enacted for civil actions under section 1658(a) applied to his case. The court reasoned that the statutory requirement that a civil commitment proceeding be initiated against a person while he is in federal custody amounts to a de facto statute of limitations that provides the same finality and certainty as a conventional limitation without implicating the concerns that arise from statutes totally silent as to timing. Therefore, the timing of a civil commitment proceeding was otherwise provided by law. View "United States v. Searcy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for four counts of sex trafficking by use of force, fraud, or coercion and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The court held that evidence was provided to support each element of defendant's convictions. In this case, the court did not have the power to reweigh the evidence or to second guess the jury's credibility determinations. The court also held that the district court carefully considered relevant factors in differentiating between types of sexual history evidence. Therefore, the district court's decision to strike some of the evidence was fair and the court did not abuse its discretion. View "United States v. Maynes, Jr." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Movant filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A), seeking authorization to file a second or successive application for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his 2001 sentence of four life terms plus 45 years imposed by a Virginia state court for nonhomicide crimes he committed as a juvenile. The Fourth Circuit denied the motion because the claim movant sought to present to the district was raised in his first federal application for a writ of habeas corpus, and therefore movant failed to make a prima facie showing that his successive habeas application would allege a claim that was not presented in a prior application, as the statute required. View "In re: Jarius Phillips" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that defendant's civil commitment judgment was not void under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) and the district court had discretion to deny relief under Rules 60(b)(5) and 60(b)(6). In this case, defendant pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). While in custody for that offense, defendant was certified as a sexually dangerous person and civilly committed. The Supreme Court later held in a different case that the version of SORNA then applicable to defendant's offense did not require a sex offender to update his registration in his former home state after moving to a foreign country. Consequently, defendant moved to have his SORNA conviction vacated and then sought relief from his civil commitment. The court affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for relief from civil commitment, holding that the civil commitment judgment was not void, and the district court weighed carefully the competing interests, in light of all the facts, and reasonably determined that defendant should remain civilly committed. View "United States v. Welsh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for MIA in an action alleging salary discrimination under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), 29 U.S.C. 206(d). The court held that the EEOC established a prima facie violation of the EPA, and that genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether the pay disparity was due to factors other than gender. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "EEOC v. Maryland Insurance Admin." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of a motion for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court held that the standards for plain error and ineffective assistance of counsel were distinct and did not necessarily result in equivalent outcomes for the defendant. In this case, defendant's trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to understand the required legal analysis, and by failing to make an obvious objection to the career offender designation. The court held that these failures by counsel resulted in prejudice to defendant by increasing his sentence by more than seven years' imprisonment. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Carthorne" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed his criminal conviction years after the Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b)(1)(A) filing deadline and nearly three months after the district court denied his motion to vacate the conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The Government did not object to the appeal's untimeliness. The Fourth Circuit held that it had the authority to dismiss untimely criminal appeals sua sponte but that it should exercise that authority only in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, given the procedural history of defendant's case, the court found that such extraordinary circumstances were present and thus dismissed the appeal. View "United States v. Oliver" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the revocation of defendant's supervised release. In this case, the district court revoked defendant's original term of supervised release for a technical violation and imposed a second term of supervised release. The district court subsequently revoked the second term of supervised release for a substantive violation. The court held that the district court retained jurisdiction to revoke defendant's supervised release a second time, and properly prescribed the maximum sentence permitted under 18 U.S.C. 3583(e)(3). View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief for petitioner where he challenged his state court conviction for computer solicitation of acts of sodomy from a minor under the age of 15, in violation of Va. Code Ann. 18.2-374.3(C)(3) (2007). The court held that Virginia's anti-sodomy statute, as authoritatively construed by the Supreme Court of Virginia, did not criminalize conduct that Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), declared to be protected by the liberty interests guaranteed by the Due Process Clause, and it was thus not facially unconstitutional. The state court's decision to adopt this narrowing construction, under its jurisprudence, was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of applicable Supreme Court precedent. Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's claim that Lawrence required the invalidation of his conviction under section 18.2-374.3(C)(3) merely because it referenced the anti-sodomy statute. View "Toghill v. Clarke" on Justia Law