Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
This case centered on whether the State presented substantial evidence to the district court to support an award of restitution for costs actually incurred by the State in prosecuting Jeremy Cunningham for drug charges. In the first appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court’s award of restitution and remanded the case. After conducting a second restitution hearing and hearing live testimony from an administrative assistant with the Ada County prosecuting attorney’s office, the district court awarded restitution to the State in the amount of $906.75 (over $1000 less than awarded at the first hearing). Cunningham appealed again, arguing that the district court erred in awarding restitution. On appeal, Cunningham contended the district court improperly admitted hearsay evidence at the hearing and that the district court abused its discretion by awarding restitution without substantial evidence of the prosecution’s costs. The Supreme Court agreed with this latter point, and vacated the district court’s award of restitution. The Court did not remand: "[t]he State had two opportunities to claim restitution, and remanding for a third opportunity would be improper." View "Idaho v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

by
Zuatney Gonzalez pleaded guilty to two criminal counts of possession of a financial transaction card in Bannock County, Idaho, and thereafter requested credit for time served while she was jailed in Canyon County on similar, but unrelated charges. At issue in this appeal was a question of the proper amount of credit for time served to which Gonzalez was entitled. The Idaho Supreme Court focused its decision on whether Gonzalez’s position was properly raised and ruled upon by the district court. Because the Supreme Court held that it was not, Gonzalez’s appeal failed. However, the Court recognized some confusion arose over how it addresses a new legal argument made on appeal in light of Idaho v. Garcia-Rodriguez, 396 P.3d 700 (2017), and Ada County Highway District v. Brooke View, Inc., 395 P.3d 357 (2017). In this opinion, the Court took the opportunity to clarify the rule announced in those cases and explain why it reached two very different decisions in each case. View "Idaho v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

by
Mark Garnett was an overnight guest in the residence of an absconded felony probationer, Tamara Brunko. 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 Brunko 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. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction. View "Idaho v. Garnett" on Justia Law

by
Augustine Garnica Perez Jr. appealed after he was convicted for felony DUI. He challenged the district court’s decision to deny his motion to suppress evidence gathered as a result of an investigatory stop. Specifically, he felt information provided by a citizen during a call to dispatch was insufficient to create the reasonable, articulable suspicion necessary to justify the stop. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the conviction. View "Idaho v. Perez, Jr." on Justia Law

by
Richard Meyers appealed his conviction for grand theft on the grounds that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation. Meyers was assigned a public defender, but was dissatisfied with his assigned counsel's performance, and filed a motion for a "change of an attorney." After observing the court’s colloquy with his counsel, Meyers withdrew his motion, indicating that he wanted to give his attorney “a chance,” and that he could work with his counsel. On the day set for trial, counsel expressed concerns about his client’s mental capacity. Ultimately, Meyers was deemed “fit to proceed” with trial, and his case was put back on the trial calendar. Meyers indicated to the court he was “prepared to represent” himself, and would present his defense “as soon as is possible.” In his letter, Meyers discussed other objections he had previously raised about his counsel’s performance. Meyers concluded his letter with the following sentence: “I choose to exercise the right to defend myself in this matter.” There were no indications in the letter that Meyers sent a copy to his public defender. The letter was not written in the form of a motion for the appointment of new counsel; rather, it merely advised the court of Meyers’s decision to “fire” his attorney of record and represent himself. Meyers did not submit a request for a hearing or attempt to schedule one. Nothing in the record suggested the court ever saw the letter, or was made aware of its contents, prior to trial. The bench trial occurred, as previously scheduled; Meyers had a new public defender, and the court confirmed that Meyers wished to proceed without a jury and asked if there were any other matters that needed to be addressed before the trial began. Meyers, through his new attorney, confirmed his decision to proceed with a bench trial. During the trial, Meyers cooperated with his new attorney and eventually, with his attorney conducting the direct examination, testified on his own behalf. His attorney handled all aspects of the trial, and at no point during the trial did Meyers or his counsel mention his earlier request to represent himself. At the conclusion of the trial, the district court found Meyers guilty of grand theft. Thereafter, Meyers was sentenced to a unified term of seven years, with two years fixed. Meyers appealed, arguing that his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation was violated by the district court’s failure to discuss his letter. The State argued Meyers did not unequivocally invoke his right to self-representation, and even if he did, he abandoned his request through his conduct. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred with the State that Meyers abandoned his request, and therefore, affirmed the conviction and sentence. View "Idaho v. Meyers" on Justia Law

by
After defendant Ryan Matthews was arrested for absconding from parole, methamphetamine was found on his person during the booking process at jail, for which he was charged with possession of a controlled substance. After having his motion to suppress denied, Matthews agreed to a plea deal and the district court sentenced him to seven years with three years fixed. The district court declined to order the full amount of restitution for prosecution costs under Idaho Code section 37-2732(k). The district court stated it agreed with Matthews’s concern that he felt like he was having “to pay for exercising [his] constitutional right.” Matthews appealed, contending the district court abused its discretion by ignoring mitigating factors at sentencing. The State cross-appealed, arguing the district court abused its discretion by refusing to order Matthews to pay the costs of prosecution on the sole basis that it would infringe on his constitutional rights because such a statement is inconsistent with this Court’s precedent. Finding no reversible error in Matthews' appeal or the State's cross-appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Idaho v. Matthews" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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