Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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This case was brought by the North Idaho Building Contractors Association, Termac Construction, Inc., and other class members (collectively, “NIBCA”), to declare a sewer connection/capitalization fee the City of Hayden enacted in 2007 to be an impermissible tax. The action was originally dismissed on the City’s motion for summary judgment; but, on appeal the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings because the record did not contain sufficient evidence to establish that the 2007 Cap Fee complied with controlling Idaho statutes and case law. On remand, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment and the district court found that the 2007 Cap Fee was an impermissible tax and taking of property without just compensation in violation of federal takings law. In doing so, the district court refused to consider expert evidence propounded by the City which opined that the 2007 Cap Fee complied with the applicable Idaho legal standards and was reasonable. The district court subsequently ruled on stipulated facts that NIBCA was entitled to damages in the amount paid above $774 per connection, together with interest, costs, and attorney fees. The City appealed the district court’s refusal to consider its evidence and NIBCA cross-appealed the award of damages. The Idaho Supreme Court again vacated the judgment because the district court improperly refused to consider the City’s evidence on remand. View "No ID Bldg Cont Assoc v. City of Hayden" on Justia Law

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Acting pro se, James McDay appealed a district court judgment that affirmed the Idaho State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification (“BCI”)’s denial of McDay’s request to have two criminal cases expunged from his record. In 2005, McDay was arrested for driving under the influence. On the same day, the prosecuting attorney filed a case against McDay; the magistrate court ultimately issued an order finding probable cause. On August 3, 2005, the case was dismissed. In 2009, McDay was arrested for: (1) driving without privileges; (2) failure to provide proof of insurance; and (3) possession of drug paraphernalia. The next day, the prosecuting attorney filed a case against McDay; the magistrate court ultimately issued an order finding probable cause on all three charges. The charges were subsequently reduced or dismissed on May 6, 2009. In 2016, McDay sought to have both criminal cases expunged. BCI denied the request, determining they were ineligible for expungement. He took his grievance to the district court, which found McDay’s failure to follow procedural rules was fatal to his appeal; namely, McDay failed to provide the district court with an agency record for review. McDay timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, which affirmed the district court: "McDay fails to present any cogent argument or authority to achieve such a remedy. [. . .] Because McDay’s arguments lack citations to the record, citations of applicable authority, and comprehensible argument, this Court will not consider them on appeal." View "Idaho v. McDay" on Justia Law

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John Mullins challenged the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress. Mullins and his wife, Tera, were arrested at the federal courthouse in Pocatello, Idaho after security officers found a vial of methamphetamine in Tera’s backpack. Prior to taking Mullins and Tera to jail, the couple’s personal effects, including the backpack, were placed into the Mullinses’ pickup that was in the parking lot pursuant to Tera’s instruction. A K-9 officer later ran his drug dog around the pickup, and the dog positively alerted to the presence of drugs in the pickup. The police obtained a search warrant for the pickup based on the dog sniff alert as well as the other evidence seized from the backpack. During the search, the police found methamphetamine in the pickup. Mullins moved to suppress the drug evidence found in the pickup claiming the warrant lacked probable cause because the police placed the backpack, which had previously contained methamphetamine, into the pickup. Thus, Mullins argued the dog would have alerted to the residual odor in the backpack rendering its sniff alert unreliable. The district court denied the motion, stating Mullins had not shown the police deliberately or recklessly omitted information from the affidavit to mislead the magistrate judge, and, that even without the dog sniff, there was sufficient evidence to issue the warrant. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed denial of Mullins' motion. View "Idaho v. Mullins" on Justia Law

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Michael Thompson appealed a district court order that summarily dismissed his petition for post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Thompson was charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter with an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon. Thompson’s direct appeal was unsuccessful and he filed a petition for post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. Thompson argued his trial counsel failed to request proximate and intervening cause jury instructions. He also argued his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a claim of fundamental error as to the jury instructions. The district court granted the State’s motion for summary dismissal of Thompson’s petition for post-conviction relief. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order summarily dismissing Thompson’s petition. The Idaho Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review, and finding no error in the district court's judgment, affirmed it. View "Thompson v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Raul Herrera challenged a district court’s partial denial of his Idaho Criminal Rule 35 motion for correction or reduction of sentence. Following his conviction for first-degree murder, among other charges, Herrera was sentenced to an indeterminate term of life with thirty-five years fixed. Herrera argued his sentence was illegal because the fixed term was greater than the duration authorized by Idaho Code section 18-4004, the statute governing punishment for murder. The district court rejected this argument and denied Herrera’s motion as to that part, but the motion was granted in part due to an illegal sentence for Herrera’s separate conviction for second-degree kidnapping. After a hearing was held to correct the kidnapping sentence, the district court entered an amended judgment, from which Herrera appealed. Finding no reversible error in the district court's sentence, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Idaho v. Herrera" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered the interpretation of Idaho Code section 37-2732: the State charged Daniel Amstad with violating section 37-2732 for “being present at or on premises of any place where he knows illegal controlled substances are being manufactured or cultivated, or are being held . . . .” Amstad moved to dismiss on the basis that he was in a vehicle, so his conduct did not fall within the statute. The magistrate court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The State appealed and the district court affirmed, holding that “premises” and “place” under section 37-2732 did not include a parked vehicle. The Idaho Supreme Court disagreed with the magistrate and district courts, holding that "a person does not leave a location simply by entering a parked vehicle." As such, the Court reversed and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Amstad" on Justia Law

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Dillon Gibson was arrested for vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. His mother, Judy Luis, posted a cash deposit and a property bond that collectively enabled Gibson’s release on bail. After he pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter, but before sentencing, Gibson was alleged to have violated his conditions of release. He was arrested on a bench warrant, remanded to custody, and informed by the district court that additional bail would be required and that the previous bail amount would not be forfeited. Following sentencing, Luis moved for release of the cash deposit, asserting that it should have been exonerated when Gibson was remanded to custody. The district court denied the motion and directed the clerk of the court to apply the cash deposit against Gibson’s fine, costs, and restitution obligations. Luis timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred the cash deposit should have been exonerated when Gibson's bail was revoked and he was remitted to custody. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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Sonny Rome sought post-conviction relief. In March 2016, Rome moved for post-conviction relief from his aiding and abetting a burglary conviction, claiming counsel was ineffective under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). In support of post-conviction relief, he challenged counsel’s performance at both the trial and direct-appeal phases. The district court held a one-day trial on Rome’s post-conviction petition. At the trial, after Rome presented his case in chief, the State moved for a directed verdict. The district court granted the State’s motion. In this appeal, Rome argued the district court erred by: (1) not taking judicial notice of certain items at the post-conviction phase, and (2) concluding trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to request a certain jury instruction. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rome v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Steven Moore appealed a district court’s decision denying his motion to suppress his identification by an eyewitness. The district court found that law enforcement had engaged in a suggestive identification procedure but concluded that the identification was nonetheless reliable under the five-factor reliability test first articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972). Moore argued before the Idaho Supreme Court that the district court should have suppressed the identification because the district court’s findings regarding several of the reliability factors were not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Sunseri was arrested in 2016, charged by uniform citation with two misdemeanors: domestic violence committed in the presence of a child, and interfering with a 911 call. Sunseri was in custody when he made his first appearance before the magistrate court. The magistrate court advised Sunseri of his rights and the potential penalties associated with the charges he faced. The City Attorney’s Office had previously lodged with the magistrate court a document styled as “Waiver of Appearance,” in which it waived the right to be present and advised the magistrate court of its plea offer to Sunseri. Although Sunseri had not met with an attorney to discuss the offer, the magistrate court advised Sunseri of the terms of the State’s plea offer. Sunseri responded that he understood and accepted the offer. Sunseri then waived his right to counsel and entered a plea of guilty to domestic violence in the presence of a child. The magistrate court then entered a no contact order and released Sunseri on his own recognizance after Sunseri signed his acknowledgement of receipt of the no contact order. Three days later, the magistrate court entered an order scheduling sentencing. Thereafter, Sunseri consulted with an attorney and learned that his guilty plea would result in a loss of his right to possess firearms and ammunition by operation of 18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(9). More than six weeks prior to his scheduled sentencing date, Sunseri moved to withdraw his guilty plea. Sunseri appealed the district court's affirmance of the magistrate court's order denying his motion to withdraw the plea. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court failed to recognize the magistrate court had not proceeded to the second step of determining whether there was any other just reason for withdrawal of his guilty plea. The result was to conflate the “manifest injustice” standard, which requires the trial court to grant a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, with the “just cause” standard, which confers discretionary authority upon the trial court to permit a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea. View "Idaho v. Sunseri" on Justia Law