Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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This appeal arose out of Russell Passons’s motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Idaho Criminal Rule 35. The district court denied the motion on the basis of controlling precedent of the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals relied on that precedent, Idaho v. Hernandez, 818 P.2d 768 (Ct. App. 1991), to affirm the district court’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Idaho v. Passons" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Deputy Harvey Ballman was patrolling the area near the intersection of Highways 95 and 53 in Kootenai County. At approximately 10:50 p.m., Deputy Ballman observed a vehicle, driven by defendant Antonia Fuller, traveling a few car lengths in front of him. When Fuller continued on the roadway and drove her vehicle around the right-hand curve, Deputy Ballman observed the front passenger-side tire of Fuller’s vehicle drive onto and temporarily across the solid white line on the right-hand side of the roadway (i.e., the fog line). Deputy Ballman then initiated a traffic stop, citing Fuller’s failure to maintain her lane of travel as required under Idaho Code section 49-637(1). During the traffic stop, Deputy Ballman discovered that Fuller did not have a valid driver’s license or liability insurance. Fuller was arrested for violations of Idaho Code sections 49-301(1) and 49-1232 before conducting an inventory search of her vehicle. That search revealed methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and drug paraphernalia. Fuller was never cited for a traffic offense. After considering the parties’ arguments, the district court ultimately concluded Deputy Ballman did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that section 49-637(1) was violated. The district court thus granted Fuller’s motion to suppress. The State appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the traffic stop was unconstitutional, and affirmed the district court’s order suppressing the evidence. View "Idaho v. Fuller" on Justia Law

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Ida Perez Vasquez appealed her conviction on one count of intimidating a witness, in violation of Idaho Code section 18-2604(3). Vasquez argued that she was deprived of her state and federal constitutional right to a jury trial because, although her counsel waived her right to a jury trial, Vasquez never personally waived such right, either orally or in writing. Vasquez subsequently appealed and this case was originally heard and decided by the Court of Appeals; however, the Idaho Supreme Court granted the State of Idaho’s petition for review. Under fundamental error analysis, a criminal defendant’s waiver of the right to jury trial must be made by the defendant orally or in writing. The Supreme Court found Vasquez’s failure to personally waive her right to a jury trial was a clear violation of her constitutional rights. The Supreme Court vacated Vasquez’s conviction and remanded this case to the district court. View "Idaho v. Vasquez" on Justia Law

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Dennis and Wanda Irish appealed a district court order granting a directed verdict in favor of Jeffrey and Dona Hall. The Irishes brought a defamation action against the Halls after the Halls changed their home wireless internet designation to read, “[D]ennis & [W]anda Irish stocking u2.” The complaint requested an injunction, damages, attorney fees and costs. This followed an acrimonious history between the parties stemming from Wanda Irish’s role as the mayor of the city of Harrison. The district court granted the Halls’ motion for a directed verdict, concluding the statement conveyed via the wireless designation was an opinion, and as such was protected under the First Amendment. The Irishes appealed the district court’s order, and the Halls cross-appealed, challenging the district court’s denial of attorney fees. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting the Halls’ motion for a directed verdict, finding the phrase “[D]ennis & [W]anda Irish stocking u2” was not a statement of opinion, political criticism, or hyperbole. The Court vacated the directed verdict, affirmed the denial of attorney fees, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Irish v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Ida Vasquez was convicted by jury of one count of intimidating a witness. Vasquez argued she was deprived of her state and federal constitutional right to a jury trial because, although her counsel waived her right to a jury trial, Vasquez never personally waived such right, either orally or in writing. Vasquez subsequently appealed and this case was originally heard and decided by the Court of Appeals; however, the Idaho Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review. Under its Court’s fundamental error analysis, the Supreme Court held a criminal defendant’s waiver of the right to jury trial must be made by the defendant orally or in writing. Vasquez’s failure to personally waive her right to jury trial was a clear violation of a constitutional right. The Judgment of Conviction was vacated nunc pro tunc to December 1, 2014. View "Idaho v. Vasquez" on Justia Law

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Erick Virgil Hall was convicted of the 2000 first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, and rape of Lynn Henneman. Henneman was a flight attendant from New York, laid over in Boise that day. She and the rest of the flight crew arrived in the early afternoon and checked into a hotel near the Boise River. That evening, Henneman went walking on the Greenbelt. After failing to meet the flight crew the next morning as planned, Henneman was reported missing and an extensive search was undertaken. Two weeks later, her body was discovered floating in the Boise River more than a mile downstream from her hotel. No suspect was identified until 2003, when police were investigating the murder of another woman in the Boise foothills. Erick Hall was questioned in connection with that murder and submitted a DNA sample. Hall’s sample matched the DNA on the vaginal swabs collected from Henneman’s body three years earlier. Hall was ultimately sentenced to death for murder and to consecutive, fixed life terms for first-degree kidnapping and rape. Hall petitioned for post-conviction relief, alleging numerous errors at trial. Hall’s petition for post-conviction relief was summarily dismissed. Hall’s direct and post- conviction appeals are consolidated pursuant to Idaho Code section 19-2719(6). The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of conviction and the order dismissing the post-conviction petition. View "Idaho v. Hall" on Justia Law

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In 2015, defendant-appellant Jason Barrett was arrested for a parole violation related to a prior conviction. At the time of his arrest, Barrett was in possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. While Barrett was incarcerated following the parole violation, the State filed a criminal complaint against Barrett charging him with possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with the intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance (marijuana), possession of drug paraphernalia, and resisting or obstructing an officer. On the same day, the district court issued an arrest warrant for these offenses after finding probable cause existed. Barrett later pleaded guilty to the felony charge for possession with intent to deliver; in turn, the State dismissed the misdemeanor charges. The district court imposed a sentence of ten years with three and one-half years determinate, which was to run concurrently with his prior sentence. In consideration of credit for time served, Barrett requested credit starting on July 24, 2015, the date a Hold Notice Request was served on him. The district court partially granted this request, awarding him credit starting on September 9, 2015, the date his arrest warrant was served. This credit amounted to 135 days. Barrett’s subsequent motion for reconsideration of the sentence upon leniency grounds was denied. Thereafter, Barrett appealed his sentence. Prior to the hearing on appeal, Barrett filed a pro se motion seeking reconsideration of the time served ruling, and, specifically, requesting credit for an additional 47 days for the span between July 24, 2015, and September 9, 2015. The district court denied the motion. On appeal, the Court of Appeals considered both the district court’s sentence and the issue of credit for time served. In so doing, the court affirmed the sentence, but reversed the district court’s denial of the motion, holding that Barrett should have been awarded credit for the 47 days. The State filed a petition for review, which the Idaho Supreme Court granted. After review, the Supreme Court held that absent authority establishing that the Hold Notice Request was a legal basis of incarceration or evidence showing that Barrett was actually held pursuant to the Hold Notice Request even without proper authority, Barrett was not entitled to the credit for time served. View "Idaho v. Barrett" on Justia Law

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A jury found David Johnson guilty of two counts of lewd conduct with a minor child under sixteen. Johnson appeals, arguing that the district court erred in multiple ways requiring his convictions be vacated. Finding no reversible error after review of the trial court record, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Johnson’s convictions. View "Idaho v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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This case addressed whether a defendant accused of DUI could present expert testimony regarding his alcohol concentration at the time he was driving. In April 2015, a Sheriff’s Deputy pulled Justin Austin over for failure to use a turn signal. During the stop, the deputy detected the smell of alcohol, and Austin’s appearance further led the deputy to believe he was driving under the influence. After performing a field sobriety test, he arrested Austin and approximately thirty minutes after the initial stop conducted two breath tests that demonstrated alcohol concentrations above Idaho’s legal limit. Austin claimed that his consumption of three drinks in a short period of time just before the stop contributed to a rising alcohol concentration as he waited for the breath tests, and sought to introduce expert testimony to that effect. The district court granted the State’s motion in limine to exclude expert testimony as to his actual alcohol concentration as irrelevant under the DUI statute’s “per se” provision as interpreted by Idaho precedent. On appeal, Austin challenged the decision to grant the State’s motion, and alternatively challenged the DUI statute as overbroad or void for vagueness where there was no time limit within which approved alcohol concentration testing must be done to be used as evidence of a crime. The district court applied binding case law to grant the motion in limine. The Idaho Supreme Court clarified the law and felt compelled to hold that the district court’s decision to grant the State’s motion in limine constituted an abuse of discretion because it was not consistent with the legal standard now clarified. Accordingly, the Court vacated Austin’s conviction. View "Idaho v. Austin" on Justia Law

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Gracie Tryon appealed her conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Tryon argued the district court erred when it admitted certain statements regarding the identity of the alleged controlled substance. Tryon claimed the admission of these statements violated her constitutional right to confront witnesses against her because the declarant was unavailable and she did not have a prior opportunity to cross-examine him. Tryon also asserted that the State did not present sufficient evidence to support a conviction for possession of a controlled substance. After review of the trial court record, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the evidence in the record did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Tryon was in possession of a controlled substance. Tryon's sentence was vacated and the case remanded for the trial court to enter judgment of acquittal. View "Idaho v. Tryon" on Justia Law