Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 132 month sentence for drug trafficking under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. The court held that the Fifth Amendment did not entitle defendant to relief from his mandatory minimum sentence; in light of international concerns, Congress was entitled to mete out hefty sentences to maritime drug runners; the inherent difficulties of policing drug trafficking on the vast expanses of international waters suggested that Congress could have rationally concluded that harsh penalties were needed to deter would-be offenders; circuit precedents foreclosed defendant's arguments about the constitutionality of the Act and its application to him; and defendant's guilty plea foreclosed his constitutional challenges to his detention. View "United States v. Lemus Castillo" on Justia Law

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Defendants Joyner and Sturgis appealed their convictions and sentences for multiple counts of Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not reversibly err by declining to repeat a jury instruction when it provided the indictment to the jury; the district court's denial of motions to suppress cell site data did not warrant reversal; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Joyner's motions for new counsel; the district court did not err in rejecting Joyner's Bruton argument; but, as conceded by the government, Joyner should be resentenced under a correct offense level and guidelines range. Accordingly, the court remanded Joyner's case for resentencing and affirmed in all other respects. View "United States v. Joyner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that its order denying a certificate of appealability (COA) to petitioner in this case should not be reconsidered. The court held that petitioner was not entitled to a COA for two distinct reasons: first, his claim arose from the rule announced in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 580 U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 855 (2017), and that rule did not apply retroactively; and second, he has failed to show cause to overcome his procedural default. View "Tharpe v. Warden" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court held that this court must "look through" an unexplained decision by a state supreme court to the last reasoned decision and presume that the state supreme court adopted the reasoning in the decision by the lower state court. The court held that the superior court concluded that counsel provided petitioner effective assistance where, even if additional potential mitigating evidence had been admitted in petitioner's sentencing, there was no reasonable probability that the outcome of the sentencing trial could be different. Finally, the court denied petitioner's motion to remand or, alternatively, to expand the certificate of appealability and to permit supplemental briefing. View "Wilson v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for charges related to access device fraud and identity theft. The court held that the district court correctly gave the deliberate ignorance instruction to the jury; the evidence was sufficient to support the aggravated identity theft convictions; the district court did not err in denying her a minor role reduction under USSG 3B1.2; the district court did not err in its loss calculation under USSG 2B1.1(b)(1); and the record included ample evidence to support the 14 level increase in defendant's offense level. View "United States v. Maitre" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay healthcare kickbacks. The court held that the district court did not err when it admitted the factual basis for the plea agreement because defendant knowingly and voluntarily signed a valid waiver. The court rejected defendant's arguments that the district court committed other errors at his trial when it calculated his Sentencing Guidelines range. The court vacated, however, the district court's forfeiture order and remanded for a new order where the district court impermissibly held defendant jointly and severally liable for the proceeds of the conspiracy. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "United States v. Elbeblawy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated its previous order and replaced it with the following: The court held that petitioner's application seeking an order authorizing the district court to consider a successive petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A), failed for two reasons: petitioner raised an ineffective assistance of counsel - biased judge claim in his original section 2254 petition and, thus to the extent that the gravamen of the claims was the same, his current claim was precluded by section 2244(b)(1); and even if petitioner's current claim was not precluded by section 2244(b)(1), he failed to make a prima facie showing that he would be entitled to relief. Therefore, the court dismissed the application to the extent that it was barred by In re Mills and 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(1), and denied the application to the extent that it was not. View "In re: Octavious Williams" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences for armed bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions and thus the district court did not err by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal; the district court did not deny defendant his constitutional right to testify where the district court specifically found that he made his decision not to testify knowingly and voluntarily; and the district court properly applied the sentencing guideline enhancement for obstruction of justice, U.S.S.G. 3C1.1,1 based on defendant's attempt to avoid identification by covering up his distinctive tattoos. View "United States v. Watts" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Florida attempted first-degree murder is a "violent felony" within the meaning of the elements clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his sentence. The court held that Florida attempted first-degree murder was a violent felony because it required the attempted use of physical force that was capable of causing pain or injury. In this case, defendant received an enhanced sentence under the Act because he was previously convicted of three violent felonies, including Florida attempted first-degree murder. Furthermore, defendant's prior convictions for Florida aggravated assault and Florida strong-arm robbery were also violent felonies. View "Hylor v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of violating 31 U.S.C. 5324(b)(2) and 18 U.S.C. 2 by causing or attempting to cause a car dealership to file certain Form 8300s with the Treasury Department that contained material omissions and misstatements of facts concerning defendant's identity as the individual who provided cash payments of over $10,000 for the purchases of each of three sports cars. The court held that, although the evidence was circumstantial only, it was sufficient to support the jury's verdict. The court remanded with instructions to resentence defendant because the district court failed to make and explain factual findings that adequately support the application of a two-level sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice under USSG 3C1.1. View "United States v. Guevara" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law