Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Criminal
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Darius Haws appealed after he pled guilty to delivery of a controlled substance and battery on a police officer pursuant to plea agreements in which he waived his right to appeal his convictions or sentences. The district court sentenced Haws to two years fixed, with four years indeterminate, for the delivery charge; and one year fixed, with three years indeterminate, for the battery charge. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively. Additionally, the district court retained jurisdiction over Haws. However, after Haws performed poorly during the period of retained jurisdiction, the district court relinquished jurisdiction over Haws and ordered that the original sentences be served by Haws. Haws appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in relinquishing jurisdiction and that his sentences were excessive. In response, the State sought to have Haws’ appeal dismissed because Haws expressly waived his right to appeal his sentences in the plea agreements he signed. The Court of Appeals dismissed Haws' challenge to his sentences and affirmed the district court's decision to relinquish jurisdiction. Haws appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, arguing the appellate court erred in finding he forfeited his right to address the validity of his plea agreements. Haws contended that it was the State’s obligation to assert the applicability of the appellate waiver, and that he should have had the opportunity to respond in his reply brief. Additionally, Haws contended his appellate waiver was not made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily because the district court made a statement that conflicted with the written plea agreements by noting that Haws had the right to appeal his sentences. Finding no reversible error in the appellate's or trial court's decisions, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Haws" on Justia Law

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In December 2017, Klaus Nico Gomez-Alas was charged with two felony counts: rape and infamous crime against nature. At trial, he was acquitted of rape, but convicted of simple battery as an included offense. On the second count, the jury found Gomez-Alas guilty of an infamous crime against nature. After the verdict, Gomez-Alas moved the district court for a new trial pursuant to Idaho Criminal Rule (I.C.R.) 34, arguing the district court misled the jury by giving an improper “dynamite” instruction. Gomez-Alas also moved the district court for judgment of acquittal on the second count pursuant to I.C.R. 29, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction for the infamous crime against nature charge. The district court denied both post-trial motions. Gomez-Alas argued on appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court: (1) the act of cunnilingus does not constitute an infamous crime against nature under Idaho Code sections 18-6605 and 18-6606; (2) there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction for the infamous crime against nature charge; and (3) the district court misled the jury by providing an improper dynamite instruction. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Gomez-Alas" on Justia Law

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Defendant-respondent Jennie Pylican moved to suppress evidence she unlawfully possessed methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia on the evening of October 12, 2017. At that time, an officer observed Pylican enter a storage facility after hours. When she left, the officer followed and observed her make a turn without signaling. Pylican was initially stopped for the traffic violation and later questioned about her presence in a storage facility after hours. The district court granted the motion, holding that the arresting officer unconstitutionally extended the stop when he questioned Pylican regarding her presence in the storage facility. In the alternative, the district court ruled that the officer unconstitutionally extended both the scope and duration of the seizure by requiring Pylican to exit her car. In an unpublished opinion, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s order granting Pylican’s motion to suppress, holding that the officer did not provide any evidence of suspicious activity at the storage facility that would justify Pylican’s extended detention on that basis. On appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, the State argued the district court erred in grantion Pylican's motion because: (1) the deputy had reasonable suspicion to question Pylican regarding her presence in the storage facility; and (2) the deputy’s order to exit the vehicle did not unconstitutionally extend the duration of the stop. After review of the district court record, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Pylican" on Justia Law

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In September 2018, Idaho State Police Sergeant Curt Sproat pulled over a vehicle driven by defendant-respondent Cody Hansen on Interstate 90 after observing a traffic infraction. As Sergeant Sproat approached the vehicle on the passenger side, he saw a passenger in the back seat making “furtive movements.” Sergeant Sproat asked Hansen for his license and registration and requested identification from the passengers. Hansen provided his license, but informed Sergeant Sproat that he had not yet registered the vehicle and did not know his home address. He also told Sergeant Sproat that he was on felony probation. Hansen declined to give consent to Sergeant Sproat to search the vehicle. After his conversation with Hansen, Sergeant Sproat attempted to contact Hansen’s probation officer, but she was not available. Unable to get ahold of an on-call probation officer, Sergeant Sproat began drafting a citation. After a discussion with another Idaho State Police trooper, Sergeant Sproat decided to search the vehicle. During the search, Sergeant Sproat found a digital scale, a methamphetamine pipe, and eight “dime” baggies of what appeared to be methamphetamine. Based on the contraband found in the vehicle, Sergeant Sproat arrested Hansen. A grand jury indicted Hansen for possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance in violation of Idaho Code section 37-2732(a)(1)(A). Hansen moved to suppress all evidence found in the vehicle, arguing, among other things, that his vehicle was searched without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, section 17 of the Idaho Constitution. The State appealed when the district court granted Hansen’s motion to suppress. The district court determined that Hansen effectively revoked the consent to be searched he had given as a condition of his probation. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding Hansen never sought to modify the Fourth Amendment waiver term of his probation agreement with the court that granted him probation. Instead, Hansen refused to provide Sergeant Sproat with consent to search his vehicle during the traffic stop. "Even assuming that Hansen intended to revoke the previously agreed to consent in his probation agreement, such an attempt was ineffective because it was not made in court. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court erred in finding that Hansen revoked the consent to be searched provided for in his probation agreement." View "Idaho v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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Nicole Lyn Gneiting appealed her conviction for possession of major contraband within a correctional facility under Idaho Code section 18-2510(3). Police responded to a call to a potential burglary at an Idaho Falls motel. They eventually questioned Gneiting, who said she was not staying there, but visiting a friend who was. Officers found a "hard bulgy object" on Gneiting's upper thigh after a pat down search. The object turned out to be a flashlight. A search of the motel room netted a purse containing marijuana, Xanax and Adderall pills. Gneiting was ultimately placed under arrest and taken to the station. When asked whether she had anything illegal on her person, and after given warnings that if she took anything illegal into the jail, she Gneiting would receive an additional charge. Police suspected Gneiting was still carrying something underneath her clothes; she was strip searched and police found a white paper envelope between Gneiting's legs. The envelope was later determined to contain three small plastic bags totaling over 30 grams of methamphetamine. Gneiting was convicted by a jury after a four-day trial on drug possession charges. On appeal, Gneiting argued the State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she knowingly possessed contraband within a correctional facility because she did not enter the county jail voluntarily. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Gneiting's conviction. View "Idaho v. Gneiting" on Justia Law

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A district court granted Michael Bonner's motion to suppress evidence following a traffic stop that lead to his arrest for driving without privileges and for DUI. Bonner argued that the arresting officer lacked a reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime had occurred or was about to occur, and had seized Bonner by taking his identification and ordering him to sit on the curb. The State argued that Bonner had waived his Fourth Amendment rights in his parole agreement, and therefore lacked standing to object to the seizure. Alternatively, the State argued the police officer had made consensual contact with Bonner, and if the instruction for Bonner to sit on the curb constituted a detention, it was a seizure supported by reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in ruling that the police officer did not have a reasonable suspicion to detain Bonner. "Accepting the findings of the district court as true, we nonetheless conclude that the totality of the circumstances supports the conclusion that the officer articulated a reasonable basis for suspecting that illegal conduct was taking place. Therefore, while we acknowledge that this is a very close question, we conclude that the district court erred in granting the motion to suppress. In light of this ruling, it is unnecessary to address the State’s alternative theory that the stop was consensual." View "Idaho v. Bonner" on Justia Law

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James Hairston was sentenced to death after a jury convicted him of two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of William and Dalma Fuhriman. Hairston was about nineteen and a half when he killed the Fuhrimans. In this, his fourth post-conviction petition, Hairston argued his sentence was unconstitutional because: (1) he was under the age of twenty-one at the time of the offense; and (2) the trial court failed to give adequate consideration to the mitigating factors that had to be considered with youthful defendants. The district court dismissed Hairston’s first claim after holding that he failed to show that evolving standards of decency prohibited imposing the death penalty for offenders between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. The court dismissed Hairston’s second claim after finding that there was no basis to extend the special sentencing considerations that have been specifically limited to juvenile defendants under eighteen to those under twenty-one. Finding no reversible error in those judgments, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hairston v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Quentin Nava appealed after he was convicted on one count of lewd and lascivious conduct and one count of sex abuse. The charges arose from an approximately two-day period in July 2016 when Nava was staying in the home of a female friend, her twelve-year-old daughter, her twelve-year-old niece, as well as other friends and relatives who were staying at the woman’s house. He argued that the district court erred when it denied his motion to sever the two counts. Nava argued the similarities between the two counts did not constitute a common scheme or plan as to justify joinder of the two charges. The Idaho Court of Appeals agreed, and vacated Nava’s judgment of conviction. The State petitioned for review, and finding no reversible error in the appellate court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Nava" on Justia Law

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Clinton Haggard appealed a district court’s decision to affirm a magistrate court’s judgment of conviction. After a trial, the magistrate court found Haggard guilty of misdemeanor domestic battery in violation of Idaho Code section 18-918(3)(b). The issue presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review was whether aggard effectively waived his right to a jury trial. The Court found Haggard’s waiver was ineffective because the magistrate court did not, in open court, inquire into whether the waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. The Court therefore reversed the district court’s decision and remanded this case with instructions to the district court to remand this case to the magistrate court with instructions to vacate the judgment of conviction. View "Idaho v. Haggard" on Justia Law

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Over a period of several months, William Dix bought several thousand dollars’ worth of goods from Grainger Supply on credit. On the same days he bought the goods, he pawned them. Dix was charged with grand theft and burglary, and pleaded not guilty to both counts. At trial, the State argued that Dix committed theft by obtaining the goods on credit without intending to pay for them, and committed burglary by receiving loans from the pawn shop in exchange for the goods based on false representations that he owned them. After the close of the State’s case-in-chief, Dix moved for a judgment of acquittal under Idaho Criminal Rule 29 on both charges, arguing that under Idaho v. Bennett, 246 P.3d 387 (2010), he became the owner of the goods once he obtained possession of them from Grainger, and as the owner, he could lawfully pawn them. The district court denied Dix’s motion, and the jury subsequently returned guilty verdicts on both counts. After trial, Dix renewed his Rule 29 motion on the burglary charge, and this motion was also denied. The district court entered an order withholding judgment and placing Dix on probation for eight years. Dix timely appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Upon certiorari review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed Dix’s convictions and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to enter a judgment of acquittal on both counts. View "Idaho v. Dix" on Justia Law