A defendant's right to a fair trial imposes important limitations on how prosecutors can characterize evidence or argue their case before the jury. If a prosecutor makes objectionable comments during trial, the court has wide discretion whether to let the comment slide or declare a mistrial and force the State to start its case over in front of a new jury. However, if a prosecutor repeatedly makes inflammatory or misleading comments, the cumulative effects of those statements may require the defendant to receive a new trial.
Police officers have limited authority to conduct traffic stops when they encounter a driver suspected of DUI outside of their jurisdiction. Sometimes a "mutual aid agreement" between municipalities will allow police officers to make traffic stops and arrests outside of their city limits. An officer can also conduct a traffic stop if they are in "fresh pursuit" of a fleeing felon or misdemeanant from their own jurisdiction. Finally, a police officer may justify an out-of-jurisdiction stop as a "citizen arrest," based on their authority, not as a police officer, but as a private citizen.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to effective assistance of counsel during all "critical stages" of a criminal proceeding. In the context of plea negotiations, this means that criminal defense attorneys must convey plea offers to their client in a timely fashion and give adequate advice about the consequences of accepting or rejecting the offer. The United States Supreme Court previously held, in a case called Padilla v. Kentucky, that this duty extends to advice about the immigration consequences of entering a plea. In an opinion rendered last week, Lee v. United States, the Supreme Court held that bad advice about immigration consequences can support post-conviction relief, even in situations where the defendant did not have any reasonable hope of winning at trial.
Approximately 96% of all vehicles manufactured since 2013 are equipped with devices called event data recorders-or "black boxes"-that keep track of data such as when the driver brakes, steering, engine rpm during a crash. More sophisticated black boxes record a wealth of information about a person's driving habits ranging from where they go, how fast they drive, and even whether the vehicles systems are in working order. In the hands of law enforcement officers or prosecutors, such data can become powerful evidence in a criminal case.
In an opinion rendered this week-Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado-the Supreme Court carved out an important exception to a longstanding rule prohibiting jurors from being questioned about conduct during deliberations after a verdict has been rendered. The case involved a Colorado man who was convicted for sexually assaulting two teenage girls. The jury returned a verdict against him. After the trial, two jurors approached Mr. Pena-Rodriguez's criminal defense attorney and expressed concerns about another juror's racial comments during deliberations. Specifically, the juror went into a lengthy tirade about Mr. Pena-Rodriguez's Hispanic heritage, noting that he "believed the defendant was guilty because, in [the juror's] experience as an ex-law enforcement officer, Mexican men had a bravado that caused them to believe they could do whatever they wanted with women."
In a decision rendered last week, Norman v. State, the Florida Supreme Court rejected a Second Amendment challenge to Florida's "Open-Carry" law. The statute in question, section 790.053, prohibits individuals from visibly carrying firearms in public. Under the statutory scheme, a gun-owner must first obtain a license to carry a firearm in public. Even after they obtain a license, they still must conceal the firearm-for instance, in an article of clothing-when they are carrying. Failure to do so is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60-days' imprisonment and a $500 fine. The Open Carry law also contains sixteen exceptions, including one for bringing firearms on fishing, camping, or hunting expeditions.
The Fourth Amendment only applies residences when a police officer conducts a "search" of that residence. A common tactic that police officers use to get around the Amendment's protections is to use a technique called a "knock-and-talk." During these encounters, police officers will approach a residence, knock on the door, and try to get an occupant inside to speak with them. During that encounter, officers will either seek permission to enter the house (meaning that they do not need a warrant or probable cause) or will try to detect evidence of contraband in plain view from the doorway.
Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Government generally cannot use evidence of a defendant's prior bad acts to prove that a defendant committed the crime charged. Under Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence states that evidence of crimes, wrongs or other acts are not admissible to prove a person's character to show that they acted in accordance with that character on a particular occasion. Similarly, Rule 403 prohibits introducing evidence when its evidentiary weight would be substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.
Most people know that the Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a trial, "without unnecessary delay". However, in the federal system, defendants also have speedy trial rights under statutory law. Specifically, the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 requires a criminal trial to commence within 70 days from the date the Information or Indictment was filed or from the date the defendant appears before an officer of the court during his first appearance, whichever is later. While the Speedy Trial Act may seem simple, it is often the subject of litigation, because the 70 days provided in the act can often actually go much longer before a defendant is entitled to a trial on his criminal charges.
Most people are familiar with the Miranda warnings. But police do not need to use these warnings every time they speak with a suspect. The Miranda decision only applies when a suspect undergoes "custodial interrogation". In other words, when a reasonable person would not feel that they were free to leave.