Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. The court rejected petitioner's claim, in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), that his prior South Carolina conviction for assault on a police officer while resisting arrest qualified as a predicate "crime of violence" for career-offender status under the Sentencing Guidelines. Petitioner can succeed only if, inter alia, a Supreme Court precedent has rendered his motion timely by recognizing a new right entitling him to relief. The court held that neither Johnson nor Beckles v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 886, 895 (2017), nor any other Supreme Court case has recognized the specific right on which petitioner sought to rely. The court explained that only the Supreme Court can recognize the right which would render petitioner's motion timely under section 2255(f)(3). View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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These appeals arose from the district court's denial of a motion to quash grand jury subpoenas demanding testimony of a criminal defendant's attorney and investigator. The Fourth Circuit found that part of the testimony sought was fact work product that may nonetheless be compelled because it fell under the crime-fraud exception to the work product privilege. However, the government may not ask a general question attempting to reach what the court deemed to be opinion work product. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Under Seal 1 v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The federal criminal forfeiture statute, 21 U.S.C. 853, does not authorize the pretrial restraint of a defendant's innocently-obtained property. Section 853(e) permits the government to obtain a pretrial restraining order over only those assets that are directly subject to forfeiture as property traceable to a charged offense. Consequently, the Fourth Circuit overruled its precedents to the contrary, United States v. McKinney (In re Billman), 915 F.2d 916 (4th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U.S. 952 (1991), and United States v. Bollin, 264 F.3d 391, 421–22 (4th Cir. 2001), and vacated the district court's order relying on those authorities. View "United States v. Chamberlain" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction of immigration fraud, holding that he was denied an opportunity for a fair and impartial trial. Defendant, an Algerian native, entered the United States through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. During trial, the district court interjected numerous times, expressing skepticism of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and a negative impression of individuals who participate in the program. The court found that this judicial intervention was improper, the district court failed to issue a curative instruction after its improper comments, and neither the timing nor the content of the boilerplate instructions to the jury addressed the comments. View "United States v. Lefsih" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner, who is civilly committed pursuant to the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, 18 U.S.C. 4248, appealed the district court's order denying his motion for a discharge hearing. The Fourth Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that the district court applied an incorrect standard for determining whether someone confined pursuant to the Adam Walsh Act was entitled to a discharge hearing. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to apply the correct standard in the first instance. The court explained that the district court must decide whether petitioner's motion contained sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for discharge that was plausible on its face. View "United States v. Maclaren" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's restitution calculation, determination of loss for purposes of sentencing, and denial of defendant's motion for recusal. In this case, defendant was convicted of orchestrating a scheme to defraud mortgage companies. The court held that the evidence supported the district court's restitution calculation; the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the loss amount where it used the correct loss figure in sentencing defendant under the advisory Guidelines; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in its determination not to recuse where the district court's ownership of stock in some of the victim lenders did not require recusal. View "United States v. Stone" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated an order of restitution, holding that the Victim and Witness Protection Act (VWPA), 18 U.S.C. 3663, applied to defendant's crime of interference with flight crew members and attendants because it was not categorically a crime of violence as defined by section 18 U.S.C. 16. Therefore, the district court erred by holding that the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3663A, applied to the offense. The court remanded for redetermination of the issue of restitution. On remand, should the district court determine that restitution was proper, the district court must order the full amount of loss as determined by the district court. View "United States v. Diaz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 180 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The court held that defendant's prior conviction for the North Carolina offense of robbery with a dangerous weapon qualifies as a violent felony under the force clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e). View "United States v. Burns-Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 420 month sentence that was issued on remand. Defendant was convicted of several charges related to his involvement in running brothels in Annapolis. The court held that the district court did not contravene the mandate rule; because defendant did not receive an increased aggregate sentence, his attempt to establish a presumption of vindictiveness failed; and defendant's sentence was procedurally and substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Ventura" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit assumed, without deciding, that in some circumstances, federal common law offers prisoners the possibility of credit for time erroneously spent at liberty. The court declined to adopt the Vega v. United States, 493 F.3d 310, 318 (3d Cir. 2007), test because of its failure to adequately consider the multitude of interests an award of credit implicates. Instead, the court turned to the various other interests implicated in a decision to award credit for time erroneously spent at liberty because of a premature release. In this case, defendant's underlying conviction and underlying supervised probation violation involved nonviolent drug offenses, and he proactively brought his erroneous release to the Government's attention. However, defendant sought ten days of credit for a fifteen day sentence; because the magistrate judge allowed him to serve this ten-day period on weekends and other days to accommodate his employment schedule, reincarceration would at most only minimally hinder his reintegration into society; the ten days was short enough to avoid the disruption to a prisoner's life; and the government did not act maliciously. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment and held that it did not improperly deny defendant his credit. View "United States v. Grant" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law