Author Archive | Matt Larsen

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Johnson is Retroactive


In last year’s Johnson v. United States, the Supreme Court held the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) void for vagueness.

In today’s Welch v. United States, the Supreme Court held Johnson applies retroactively.  Only Justice Thomas dissented.

This means defendants serving final sentences — meaning ones previously affirmed on appeal — are now eligible for relief if they were sentenced under ACCA’s residual clause.  This is true even if they’re arguably subject to ACCA’s force/elements clause: though the government’s position was that Mr. Welch merits no relief because his prior conviction for Florida robbery falls under that clause, the Court said that’s debatable and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The question lurking in the shadows here, which Welch didn’t address, is whether Johnson also has the effect of retroactively invalidating the residual clauses of the Career Offender Guideline, 18 U.S.C. § 16, 18 …

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Categories: ACCA, retroactivity

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Categories: ACCA, retroactivity

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Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Supreme Court: Pretrial Restraint of Untainted Assets Needed to Hire a Lawyer is Unconstitutional


No opinions or relevant summary orders from the Second Circuit today.

Operating with only 8 justices, a fractured Supreme Court today decided Luis v. United States.  The Court’s holding is that “pretrial restraint of legitimate, untainted assets needed to retain counsel of choice violates the Sixth Amendment.”

Justice Breyer’s plurality opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, explains that 18 U.S.C. § 1345 generally authorizes the government to freeze the assets of people accused of federal banking or health-care crimes.  Specifically, § 1345(a)(2)(B)(i) authorizes the pretrial restraint of “property of equivalent value,” meaning property that is neither “obtained as a result of” nor “traceable to” the alleged crime.

This license to freeze “property that is untainted by the crime, and that belongs fully to the defendant,” violates the Sixth Amendment if such funds (in Luis’s case, some $2 million) are needed to hire counsel of …

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Categories: forfeiture, right to counsel, Sixth Amendment

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Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Woe Betide Those Who Park on the Wrong Side of the Street (and those who produce child pornography)


No relevant opinions today; two summary orders.

In United States v. Grady, Syracuse police noticed that Grady’s car was parked in violation of the city’s odd/even street parking rules.  They approached the car, shone their flashlights inside and saw, in plain view, a bag of crack cocaine on Grady’s lap.  A loaded gun was also found in the car.

Assuming the officers’ approach of the car constituted a stop, the Court (Jacobs, Hall, Lynch, CJJ) held there was reasonable suspicion given the car’s being parked on the wrong side of the street.  Though a car isn’t “parked” if it’s stopped only to load or unload goods or passengers, the officers observed no such activity and the Court held they watched the car for long enough — 10 seconds — before deciding to approach.  “The officers were not required to conduct surveillance long enough to ‘rule out the possibility of …

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Categories: car stop, child pornography, expert witnesses, Fourth Amendment, reasonable suspicion, substantive reasonableness

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