Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Supreme Court: Police Generally Need Warrant for Historical Cell-Site Information

In Carpenter v. United States, the Supreme Court today held that the government’s acquisition of historical cell-site location information constitutes a Fourth Amendment search and the government generally will be required to obtain a warrant to acquire that information.  The so-called third-party doctrine does not permit the government to obtain cell-site location information as “business records” because “[t]here is a world of difference between the limited types of personal information [permissibly obtained under the third-party doctrine] and the exhaustive chronicle of location information casually collected by wireless carriers.”


You can read SCOTUSblog’s analysis of the case here.


Posted By
Categories: cell phone location information

Continue Reading

SDNY Judge Issues Guidelines Regarding Use of 302 Forms in Criminal Trials

An FYI for counsel who will be cross-examining witnesses in SDNY Judge Katherine B. Forrest’s Courtroom.  Judge Forrest has issued “Guidelines Regarding Appropriate Use of 302 Forms in Criminal Trials.”  You can read the Guidelines here and may need to plan ahead where you need to use a 302 to complete the impeachment of a witness.

In the eight-page document, the Court addresses what it sees as the “most common issues related to the proper use of 302s.”  After discussing how the Federal Rules of Evidence apply to the use of 302s, the Court concludes: “It is clear that statements included in 302s are therefore classic hearsay without — in and of themselves — requisite indicia of reliability.”  Because the Court views mention that the witness’s statements contained in the 302 were written down by an FBI agent as “giving [the statement] an indicia of reliability,” it will preclude counsel …

Posted By
Categories: 3500 Material, cross-examination, evidence, impeachment

Continue Reading
Friday, June 15th, 2018

Sua Sponte, Post-Dimaya Order Granting Leave to File a Successive 2255 Motion

On the post-Dimaya front, the Second Circuit gave us some good—but easily overlooked—news last week. See Acosta v. United States, No. 16-1492 (2d Cir. 2018) (Jacobs, Livingston, Droney) (clerk’s order). In a sua sponte order, available here, the Circuit granted leave to file a successive 2255 petition arguing that a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional.

Here’s the analysis:

Petitioner has “made a prima facie showing that his claim satisfies § 2255(h) and warrants fuller exploration by the district court.” Blow v. United States, 829 F.3d 170, 172 (2d Cir. 2016).

Section § 924(c)(3)(B) is essentially identical to 18 U.S.C. § 16(b), which was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), largely based on the Supreme Court’s analysis in Johnson. The Supreme Court has held Johnson to be retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.

Posted By
Categories: 924(c), categorical approach, due process

Continue Reading

(Non-)Waiver and the Generic Definition of Manslaughter

Last week the Second Circuit issued an opinion holding that, under the residual clause of the pre-2016 Career Offender Guideline (COG), U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2), offenses under a subsection of New York’s first-degree manslaughter statute are crimes of violence. In so holding, the Circuit defined the generic definition of manslaughter to include “the unlawful killing of another human being recklessly.” United States v. Castillo, No. 16-4129 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Raggi, Vilardo (WDNY)) (appeal from Woods, J., SDNY), slip op. at 24. The Court further held, in conclusory fashion, that the government did not waive this argument when it conceded, pre-Beckles, that the residual clause of the pre-2016 COG was unconstitutionally vague. The opinion in Castillo, available here, may be of interest to practitioners dealing with the pre-2016 Guidelines, and is more generally worth noting for its loose language  concerning appellate waiver — language that …

Posted By
Categories: career offender, categorical approach, manslaughter, waiver

Continue Reading
Friday, June 8th, 2018

Seventh Circuit Holds that Beckles Does Not Apply to Pre-Booker Sentences

More news out of the Midwest:  In United States v. Cross, the Seventh Circuit held that Beckles v. United States applies only to post-Booker cases in which the Sentencing Guidelines were advisory.  In pre-Booker cases in which the Guidelines were mandatory, the residual clause of the career-offender guideline is unconstitutionally vague under Johnson v. United States.…

Posted By
Categories: career offender, Johnson

Continue Reading

Refusal to Follow the Actual (and Ice) Methamphetamine Guideline Based on Policy Disagreement

Two judges in the Northern District of Iowa recently have announced that they disagree with on policy grounds, and no longer will follow, the marijuana equivalency called for in the Sentencing Guidelines when imposing sentences in cases involving actual methamphetamine and ice.

The Sentencing Guidelines distinguish between a methamphetamine mixture and actual/pure methamphetamine or ice, which it defines as methamphetamine that is at least 80% pure, treating actual/pure methamphetamine or ice ten times more harshly than a mixture of marijuana.  One gram of actual (pure) methamphetamine or ice has a marijuana equivalency of 20 kilograms whereas one gram of a methamphetamine mixture has an equivalency of 2 kilograms.  The ratio has its roots in 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1).  Comment 27(c) to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1 offers the only explanation of the Commission’s view on the relevance of purity to the appropriate sentence, asserting that purity “is probative of the defendant’s role or …

Posted By
Categories: drug purity, marijuana equivalency, Methamphetamine

Continue Reading

New Supreme Court Opinions on 3582(c)

Along with some decision about cake, the Supreme Court issued two opinions this week concerning the scope of 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)’s requirement that, to be eligible for a sentencing reduction, the defendant’s sentence must have been “based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 994(o).”

In Koons v. United States, the Court issued a short, unanimous opinion holding that a sentence is not “based on” the Guidelines where the defendant was originally sentenced below the mandatory minimum for providing substantial assistance to the government. When the government so moves, see U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1, the district court is authorized to “impose a sentence below” the statutory minimum “so as to reflect a defendant’s substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense.” 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e). The Court held that, under …

Posted by
Categories: 3582(c)(2)

Posted By
Categories: 3582(c)(2)

Continue Reading
Friday, June 1st, 2018

This Week’s Supreme Court Opinions

This week the Supreme Court issued two opinions, both of which seem relatively straightforward in their holdings.

In Collins v. Virginia, the Court held that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit a warrantless search of a vehicle parked within the curtilage of a home. In Collins, police officers tracked a stolen vehicle to the address of the defendant’s girlfriend. There, parked in the driveway, an officer saw what appeared to be a motorcycle frame covered with a white tarp. The officer entered the driveway, uncovered the tarp, and confirmed that it was the stolen motorcycle.

Justice Sotomayor’s opinion, for an eight-member majority, is clear in its language and broad in its scope. The opinion swiftly concludes that the part of the driveway on which the motorcycle was parked was curtilage.  That portion of the driveway was enclosed on three sides, but open …

Posted By
Categories: automobile exception, curtilage, Fourth Amendment, MVRA

Continue Reading
Friday, May 18th, 2018

Supreme Court Roundup (including post-Dimaya GVRs)

This week the Supreme Court issued a number of significant criminal opinions, as well as a number of GVRs signalling that the holding of Sessions v. Dimaya likely extends to § 924’s residual clause (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B)).

In McCoy v. Louisiana, 16-8255, the Court held that it was structural Sixth Amendment error for an attorney to concede a defendant’s guilt, against his wishes, in the hope of sparing him the death penalty. McCoy’s attorney argued that his client lacked the mental capacity to form the specific intent necessary for first-degree murder, see slip op. at 3 n.1, but conceded in his opening statement that the jury could not reach “any other conclusion than Robert McCoy was the cause of” the victims’ deaths. Id. at 4. This strategy, the Court held, violated the client’s Sixth Amendment rights regardless whether it was “counsel’s experienced-based view . . . that confessing …

Posted By
Categories: 924(c), Fourth Amendment, ineffective assistance of counsel, right to counsel, traffic stop, wiretaps

Continue Reading
Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Judge Woods Grants New Trial Due to Jencks Act Violation

The Supreme Court issued a number of significant opinions yesterday, but it is worth highlighting an important district court decision that might otherwise escape notice. This month, Southern District Judge Gregory Woods issued an opinion and order granting a new trial based on the government’s inadvertent failure to provide Jencks Act material—specifically the notes of proffer sessions with a key cooperating witness. Judge Woods’s opinion in United States v. Russell, No. 16-cr-396 (May 4, 2018), DE 618, is available here.

Mr. Russell was the sole person who went to trial among twenty-one defendants who were indicted in a cocaine distribution conspiracy. The government’s principal witness at the trial, Kenneth Ashe, testified pursuant to a cooperation agreement. After a short trial, involving only five witnesses and two days of testimony, Mr. Russell was convicted of conspiracy to sell crack cocaine and a 924(c) charge. Mr. Ashe’s testimony was …

Posted By
Categories: 3500 Material, harmless error

Continue Reading
Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Second Circuit Issues Amended Ruling in Hill

Today the Second Circuit issued an amended opinion in United States v. Hill, holding that Hobbs Act Robbery is a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A) (924(c)’s so-called “force clause”).

The good news about the decision is that it omits the portion of the earlier-issued opinion that upheld against a vagueness challenge 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) (924(c)’s so-called “residual clause” or “risk of force clause”).  This was a hoped-for development in light of the Supreme Court’s decision last month in Sessions v. Dimaya.

This means there is no longer any holding from the Second Circuit that 924(c)’s residual clause survived Johnson. This should mean district courts will see a green light to find that 924(c)’s residual clause, and the identical clause in the Bail Reform Act, are void.

The bad news is the portion of the original holding that remains intact, that Hobbs Act robbery is a …

Posted By
Categories: 924(c), Hobbs Act, Johnson

Continue Reading