Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
The State appealed a district court order granting Monica Wolfe’s motion to suppress evidence obtained from a cell phone in her possession.In early 2017, a dog owned by Robert Wolfe and his new wife became unusually lethargic and eventually died. Around that same time, they noticed golf balls in their yard, some of which had been chewed. Because no one in the family played golf and they did not live near a golf course, suspicion arose. As a result, the family initiated an investigation through Animal Control and discovered that the golf balls appeared to have antifreeze residue on them. A veterinarian later confirmed that the dog died due to ingesting antifreeze and golf balls. From this, the family suspected that the dog had been poisoned. Soon after the dog died, Daniel Collins, a man who had dated Robert’s ex-wife, defendant Monica Wolfe, contacted Robert and informed him that he had been solicited by Wolfe to kill Robert and his dog. Robert met with Collins at a restaurant and, unbeknownst to Collins, recorded their conversation. During the conversation, Collins stated that Wolfe asked him to find out when Robert left work so that he could “take [him] out from there.” Regarding the dog, Collins said that he was hoping he could “get to [Robert]” before it died, and that Wolfe’s plan was to mix car antifreeze with meatballs to kill the dog. He further asserted that Wolfe “was asking [him] for help . . . but basically wanted to be the one to have [Robert] underground” because “she [was] angry” with him for obtaining custody of their two kids. After this conversation, Robert contacted the police to report Wolfe and Collins. Wolfe was later interviewed. She also admitted to having a conversation about killing a neighbor’s dog with antifreeze, but denied killing Robert’s dog. Further, she and the detective discussed text messages that were on a cell phone in her possession. The district court held that law enforcement unlawfully seized the phone prior to obtaining a warrant to search it. The State argued the "independent source exception" applied because law enforcement subsequently obtained a valid search warrant that was not tainted by the unlawful seizure, and therefore, the evidence found on the phone should not have been suppressed. The Idaho Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the district court. View "Idaho v. Wolfe" on Justia Law

by
Christopher Shanahan appealed a district court decision denying his motion to correct an allegedly illegal sentence imposed in 1997. In the Fall of 1995, Shanahan and two friends devised a scheme to rob a convenience store in Grant, Idaho, and use the money to travel to Las Vegas, Nevada. Once there, they planned to join a gang and lead a life of crime. Shanahan argued his indeterminate life sentence, with the first thirty-five years fixed, for the murder he committed as a juvenile in 1995 was equivalent to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Therefore, he argued that under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) and persuasive precedent from other states, he was entitled to a new sentencing where his youth and its attendant characteristics could be properly considered. Otherwise, he argued, his sentence violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The district court denied the motion on the basis that Miller was inapplicable to Shanahan’s sentence and, even if it applied, the sentencing court heard testimony regarding his age and mental health prior to sentencing him. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Shanahan's conviction. View "Idaho v. Shanahan" on Justia Law

by
Samantha Cook was pulled over by a police officer after the officer noticed her vehicle lacked both front and rear license plates. As the vehicles slowed to pull over, the officer noticed a piece of paper in the rear window of Cook’s car. Upon approaching the pulled-over vehicle, the officer noticed that the piece of paper was a temporary registration permit, which was unreadable due to condensation from rain earlier in the evening. The officer then spoke with Cook, detected the smell of marijuana, searched her vehicle, located controlled substances, and arrested her. Cook filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop on the grounds that the officer lacked probable cause to stop her vehicle. The district court denied Cook’s motion. The district court found, based on Idaho v. Kinch, 356 P.3d 389 (Ct. App. 2015), a reasonable suspicion existed that Cook had violated Idaho Code section 49-432(4), which required a driver to display a permit “upon the windshield of each vehicle or in another prominent place where it may be readily legible.” As a result, the district court found the seizure legal and the evidence obtained after the seizure properly obtained. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Cook argued on appeal, among other things, that the district court erred in denying her motion to suppress because Idaho Code section 49-432(4) was unconstitutionally vague as applied to her conduct. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred, concluding the statute was unconstitutionally vague. The Court reversed the district court’s denial of Cook’s motion to suppress; Cook’s conviction was vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Cook" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Shawn Coats was charged with eight different offenses after he took an elderly man’s debit card and deposited fraudulent checks into the man’s credit union account to create funds for a multi-day shopping spree at Walmart. After a jury trial, he was convicted of seven of the offenses, including grand theft of retail goods and fraudulent use of a financial transaction card. On appeal, Coats contended the jury did not have substantial evidence to convict him of grand theft of retail goods from an owner because Walmart was paid in full for the goods, and Morgan, the man from whom he obtained the debit card, never owned the purchases. Alternatively, he argued he was subjected to double jeopardy upon being convicted for both grand theft and fraudulent use of a financial transaction card, because fraudulent use was a lesser included offense of grand theft. The Idaho Supreme Court determined there was not substantial evidence for the conviction of grand theft: "While Idaho’s theft statute is broad and covers many misdeeds, there must be a careful analysis of what was stolen and from whom before a charging decision is made and the jury is instructed." Because this case was remanded to the district court with instructions to vacate Coats’s conviction on grand theft, the Supreme Court did not reach the merits of Coats’s double jeopardy argument. "[I]f the State desired to charge Coats for grand theft relating to the purchases made at Walmart with a debit card, it had to properly allege Coats wrongfully obtained money from the credit union that credited Morgan’s account with funds for the POS transaction. Yet, the State charged Coats with wrongfully obtaining retail goods from an owner—there was not sufficient evidence presented for a jury to convict Coats of this specific crime." View "Idaho v. Coats" on Justia Law

by
Justin Hoskins appealed a district court’s denial of his motion to suppress. In September 2016, Idaho State Trooper Spencer Knudsen observed a Pontiac Grand Am driving with a cracked windshield and pulled it over. He asked the driver for the vehicle’s registration and insurance as well as identification for the vehicle’s three occupants. The identification revealed that Jovette Archuleta was the driver of the vehicle, Amber Alvarez was seated in the passenger’s seat, and Hoskins was seated alone in the back seat. dispatch informed Trooper Knudsen that the vehicle’s license plates actually belonged to a Chevrolet Malibu registered to Archuleta. Dispatch also notified Trooper Knudsen that all of the vehicles’ occupants had prior drug convictions. Returning to the Pontiac, Trooper Knudsen asked Archuleta to step out of the car to speak with him. Once she had, he questioned her about whether the car contained anything illegal. After she stated that she didn’t believe so, Trooper Knudsen asked for permission to search the car. Alvarez gave her permission to search the vehicle. Before searching the vehicle, Trooper Knudsen directed Hoskins to get out of the backseat, instructing Hoskins to leave his personal items on the backseat. During the search, Trooper Knudsen found marijuana and methamphetamine. Hoskins was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine with a sentencing enhancement based on a prior drug conviction. Hoskins promptly filed a motion to suppress the evidence taken from the traffic stop. The State argued Hoskins lacked standing to object to the search based on consent and the district court denied the motion on that basis. On appeal, all parties agreed the district court’s ruling on standing was erroneous. Nevertheless, the State argued the district court’s decision could be affirmed based on the plain-view doctrine. Hoskins objected and argued the State forfeited this argument by failing to raise it below. Hoskins prevailed at the Court of Appeals and the Idaho Supreme Court granted the State’s timely petition for review. The Supreme Court did not consider the State's plain-view argument on appeal because the issue was not preserved for review: "Devising a 'correct' theory for the first time on appeal does not give the State a legal mulligan when it concedes that its original theory did not carry the burden below. The same logic holds true for the State’s argument regarding exceptions to the exclusionary rule." The Court reversed the district court's denial of Hoskins' motion to suppress, vacated his judgment of conviction and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Hoskins" on Justia Law

by
Byron Sanchez appealed a district court’s judgment of conviction for one count of threats against a public servant. In September 2016, Sanchez was in prison for a felony injury to a child offense arising out of Gem County, Idaho. While incarcerated, Sanchez sent a letter to the Gem County prosecutor that allegedly threatened harm to the prosecutor and his family. Sanchez’s letter prompted the State to charge Sanchez with one count of threats against a public servant with an enhancement because Sanchez committed the offense on the grounds of a correctional facility. A jury convicted Sanchez and he was sentenced to consecutive five-year prison terms, with four years fixed. On appeal, Sanchez challenged the district court’s denial of his pre-trial motion to dismiss as well as several evidentiary rulings by the district court. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

by
Defendant-appellant Mark Garnett was an overnight guest in the residence of an absconded felony probationer. Probation officers searched the residence, including an attached storage room, and found Garnett’s locked backpack containing a stolen firearm. Garnett, a felon himself, was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He sought to suppress the evidence found in the backpack, but the district court denied his motion because it determined that while he had standing to challenge the search of the backpack, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the absconded probationer owned, possessed, or controlled the backpack. Following a jury trial, Garnett was found guilty. Garnett appealed his conviction, arguing that the district court should have applied a reasonable belief standard and that had it done so the motion to suppress would have been granted. The Idaho Supreme Court disagreed with that reasoning, and finding no other reversible error, affirmed the district court’s decision and the judgment of conviction. View "Idaho v. Garnett" on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose from the district court’s decision to bar Steven Picatti’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 claims against two deputies on the basis of collateral estoppel. In July 2014, Picatti struggled to drive home because road access was blocked for the Eagle Fun Days parade. After circumventing some orange barricades, Picatti drove toward two uniformed deputies who were on foot patrol by a crosswalk, which was marked with a large sign reading: “road closed to thru traffic.” The factual background from that point was heavily disputed. Picatti alleged Deputy Miner hit the hood of his car, then pulled Picatti out of his truck to tase and arrest him. The deputies contended Picatti “bumped” Deputy Miner with his truck and then resisted arrest, forcing them to tase him into submission. Picatti was ultimately arrested on two charges: resisting and obstructing officers and aggravated battery on law enforcement. At the end of his preliminary hearing, Picatti was bound over. Prior to trial, Picatti accepted a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace for “failing to obey a traffic sign and driving into a restricted pedestrian area.” The court entered a judgment of conviction, which was not appealed, overturned, or expunged. Two years later, Picatti brought a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against his arresting deputies, claiming deprivations of his protected rights to be free from (1) unreasonable seizure, (2) excessive force, and (3) felony arrest without probable cause. The district court granted summary judgment to the defending deputies holding that collateral estoppel barred Picatti from relitigating probable cause once it was determined at the preliminary hearing. Picatti timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the order granting summary judgment to the deputies as to Picatti’s claims of false arrest and unreasonable seizure; however, the Court vacated the summary judgment as to Picatti’s excessive force claim. The district court correctly applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel to Picatti’s claims of false arrest and unreasonable seizure, but not as to excessive force. In addition, the Court could not find as a matter of law that the deputies were entitled to qualified immunity on Picatti’s excessive force claim when there was a genuine issue of material fact. View "Picatti v. Miner" on Justia Law

by
The State appealed a district court order granting Isaac Saldivar’s motion to suppress evidence that he unlawfully possessed a firearm. During a pat-search, police discovered a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol in the left front pocket of Saldivar’s pants. The police later learned that Saldivar was a parolee who was wanted on an active warrant. The district court determined that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct the pat-search. The district court further held that the inevitable discovery exception was inapplicable to the facts of this case and granted the motion to suppress. The State argued the search was reasonable under the circumstances, and that even if it was not, the inevitable discovery exception applied to this case. It also argued that because of his parole status, Saldivar did not retain a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the pat-search. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the search was reasonable under the circumstances presented to the trial court and reversed that court’s suppression order. View "Idaho v. Saldivar" on Justia Law

by
Relying on Idaho Criminal Rule 47, Jane Doe filed a motion to modify disposition requesting that the juvenile court place her back on probation after sentence had been imposed, and modify its previous computation of credit for time served. The juvenile court held that Doe’s motion was actually a motion to reduce sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35 (a rule which has not been incorporated into the Idaho Juvenile Rules) and concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to consider Doe’s motion. Doe appealed the juvenile court’s decision to the district court. The district court affirmed the decision, holding that Rule 47 did not grant jurisdiction to reduce the sentence, but that jurisdiction existed under Idaho Code sections 20-505 and 20-507. The district court held that whether the sentence should be modified was a discretionary call and that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in declining to place Doe back on probation or incorrectly calculate Doe’s credit for time served. The Idaho Supreme Court agreed with the district court’s decision to affirm the magistrate court’s denial of Doe’s motion to modify disposition, but took the opportunity to explain there was no jurisdiction for the juvenile court to modify the juvenile’s sentence once it had been imposed and the time for appeal had run. View "Idaho v. Jane Doe (Juvenile)" on Justia Law