Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Darryl Joe Albertson appealed his conviction for possession of a controlled substance. In August 2016, a police officer approached Albertson’s front door and observed through a window that he was smoking methamphetamine. Because he had a “no trespassing” sign posted near the opening to his property, Albertson argued the officer’s conduct constituted an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 17 of the Idaho Constitution. Consequently, he asked the Idaho Supreme Court to reverse the district court’s decision denying his motion to suppress the evidence. The State argued the "no trespassing" sign in question was insufficient to revoke the implied license for uninvited visitors to approach his home. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Albertson" on Justia Law

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Richard Wilson was convicted of two counts of aiding and abetting trafficking in methamphetamine. He appealed on grounds that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support either conviction. Finding the State provided substantial evidence for the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt Wilson aided or abetted in the trafficking of what was represented to be 28 grams or more of methamphetamine, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction on both counts. View "Idaho v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Mother Jane Doe appealed a magistrate court’s termination of her parental rights to her child T.G.E. At the time she gave birth, Mother had pending felony drug charges and an active warrant for her arrest; the child’s umbilical cord tested positive for methamphetamine at birth. Following a termination hearing, the magistrate court found termination proper based on neglect and entered an order to that effect on December 8, 2017 (the Order). However, in a subsequent decree (the Decree) issued on December 15, 2017, the magistrate court stated Mother’s parental rights were being terminated based on abandonment. The court also terminated Father’s parental rights however, Father had voluntarily relinquished his parental rights and was not a party to this appeal. On appeal, both Mother and the Department raised procedural issues relating to the conflicting Order and Decree. Subsequently, the Idaho Supreme Court remanded the case for entry of a new judgment terminating Mother and Father’s rights to Child, and stated the Order would constitute the findings of fact and conclusions of law. Mother appealed, contenting the magistrate court erred when it terminated Mother’s parental rights. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the ultimate termination. View "DHW v. Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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Jason Godwin, Sr. appealed after he was convicted for the second degree murder of Kyle Anderson in 2014. In his appeal, Godwin argued district court erred: (1) by denying his motion to suppress evidence of statements he made to police; (2) by requiring him to show personal knowledge of Anderson’s violent or aggressive character before allowing him to present evidence of that character; and (3) by failing to properly instruct the jury on justifiable homicide under section 18-4009 of the Idaho Code. Godwin also argued the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by impermissibly vouching for evidence and witnesses in closing arguments. Godwin asserted the complained-of errors in his case, even if harmless individually, amounted to a due process violation when viewed cumulatively. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed his conviction. View "Idaho v. Godwin, Sr." on Justia Law