Florida v. Joelis Jardines, 569 U.S. _____ (2013)

In connection with a narcotics investigation, police took a drug-sniffing dog to Joelis Jardines' front porch.  After the dog alerted, the officers obtained a search warrant and found marijuana plants in Jardines' home during the search.  Jardines, as a result, was charged with marijuana trafficking.  Jardines then filed a motion to suppress the evidence in the criminal proceeding, which was granted by the trial court.  The Supreme Court of Florida later upheld the trial court's ruling.


The United States Supreme Court found that the initial investigation of Jardines' home was a search under the Fourth Amendment.  The Court explained that the right of a man to retreat into his own home and be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion is the "very core" of the Fourth Amendment.  The Court further stated that, under a proper Fourth Amendment analysis, the area immediately surrounding and associated with the home (i.e.- the "curtilage") is also part of the home.  In fact, the front porch of a home is the classic example of an area to which the activity of home life extends.  The Court noted that officers need not "shield their eyes" when passing a home on public thoroughfares but "no man can set his foot upon his neighbor's close without his leave."  Thus, a police officer may approach a home without a warrant in hopes of speaking to occupants because that is "no more than any private citizen might do."  But, since there is no customary invitation to enter the curtilage to conduct a search, the scope of such action is limited to not only to a particular area but also to a specific purpose.  As such, the Court ultimately concluded that, when the Government obtains information by physically intruding on persons, houses, papers, or effects, a search within the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment has "undoubtedly occurred."  Therefore, the Supreme Court held that the police violated the Fourth Amendment by taking a drug-sniffing dog to Jardines' front porch without a warrant.  Accordingly, the Court affirmed the rulings of the trial court and the Supreme Court of Florida, suppressing the evidence.


United States v. Todd Culbertson, United States Court of Appeal, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-10917

After the district court extended his sentence during a revocation hearing, the defendant appealed, contending that the district court impermissibly based the length of the sentence on the court's perception of his rehabilitative needs. The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held that the district court violated Tapia v. United States when it lengthened the defendant's sentence based on rehabilitative needs; and, in turn, this error warranted reversal. Accordingly, the court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing.


United States v. Erik Jenkins, United States Court of Appeal, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-51277

After being convicted for various offenses concerning child pornography, the defendant appealed his conviction and sentence.  The appellate court initially found that the district court did not err in applying the U.S.S.G. 3A1.1(b)(1) "vulnerable victim" enhancement because it was clear that the children depicted were the victims of defendant's crime, and that at least some of these children were especially vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.  The appellate court therefore found no reason to conclude that the district court abused its discretion in applying and balancing the sentencing factors.  As such, the appellate court held that defendant had not shown his sentence to be substantively unreasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.


State of Louisiana v. Isaiah Overstreet, Jr., Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-KA-1854

After the district court ruled that La. R.S. 15:541(7) and 15:542 (i.e.- the laws requiring registration for sex offenders) were unconstitutional as applied to a person who pled and was found not guilty by reason of insanity to a sex offense, this matter was reviewed by the Supreme Court of Louisiana.  The facts of the case suggest that Isaiah Overstreet, Jr. began to suffer from acute mental illness at the age of 32.  In 1993, he quit his job, began living in his car, and started preaching on the grounds of college campuses. Two years later, police were dispatched to a Southeastern dormitory on April 25, 1994, at approximately 6 a.m., where Overstreet, after failing to force his way into one room, entered another, forced a student onto her bed, and struggled with her before fleeing.  At 11:30 p.m. later that day, police were dispatched to Louisiana State University where Overstreet had grabbed a student as she waited for campus transit, dragged her into the bushes, pinned her to the ground, and attempted to remove her clothing before fleeing.  Also on that day, Overstreet tried to gain entry to another dormitory by breaking a window and pulling the handle on a fire door.  The State of Louisiana charged Overstreet by bill of information with aggravated burglary and two counts of attempted aggravated rape.  However, the criminal proceeding would be stalled due to Overstreet's competency. After Overstreet was evaluated to determine his competency to proceed to trial, the sanity commission agreed that Overstreet was delusional and unable to assist in his defense.  Overstreet then went through several stints in treatment centers, being treated with low doses of anti-psychotic medication and his symptoms generally went into remission.  Overstreet denies any memory of the attacks and has consistently refused to participate in sex offender assessment or treatment.  Overstreet ultimately filed a motion to be released, but due to his refusal to participate, a review panel of the court recommended against his release.  Overstreet was informed by treatment center staff that if he was transferred to a group home, he would be required to register as a sex offender. Overstreet eventually filed a motion for declaratory relief, seeking a ruling from the district court to determine whether he was classified as a sex offender, and, in turn, subject to the registration requirement. The district court ruled that the laws requiring sex offender registration were unconstitutional as applied to Overstreet.  However, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the district court because Overstreet failed to sufficiently particularize any basis for finding the statutes unconstitutional.



State of Louisiana v. Mazen Hamdan, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-KK-1986

The Supreme Court of Louisiana granted the writ in this case to consider the criteria by which Louisiana courts are to evaluate a criminal defendant's previous conviction in a foreign jurisdiction during a habitual offender adjudication.  Mazen Hamdan was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  The bill of information alleged that Hamdan was previously convicted in Orleans Parish of possession of heroin and possession of methadone, which were used in the trial for the underlying predicate offense(s).  At the conclusion of trial, the jury found Hamdan guilty as charged. The district court subsequently sentenced Hamdan to serve 10 years at the Department of Corrections.  Yet, on the day of the sentencing hearing, the State of Louisiana filed a habitual offender bill of information, alleging that Hamdan's sentence should be enhanced due to his prior guilty plea in federal court to interstate transportation of stolen property.  Hamdan responded by filing a motion to quash the habitual offender bill, contending that the predicate offense alleged by the State of Louisiana had no felony equivalent under Louisiana law.  Hamdan also argued that the charging instrument in the federal prosecution did not indicate whether he actually possessed the stolen property or simply arranged for its transportation.  The district court granted Hamdan's motion to quash, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed.  The Louisiana Supreme Court stated: "When a predicate offense does not necessarily include conduct criminal under Louisiana law, the conviction cannot lead to an enhanced penalty.  In determining whether the predicate offense satisfies this criteria, courts are not confined to an examination of the applicable laws and the charging instrument of the foreign jurisdiction.  Rather, when . . . there is information from the foreign proceeding available in the record that clearly establishes that the crime for which the defendant was convicted in a foreign jurisdiction would be a felony if committed in this state, courts are required to consider all of the available information in the record in deciding whether the foreign crime which, if committed in this state would be a felony."  Therefore, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the district court legally erred in quashing the habitual offender bill filed by the State of Louisiana. Accordingly, the Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the decision of the appellate court, vacated the district court's judgment granting Hamdan's motion to quash, and remanded the case for further proceedings.


State of Louisiana v. Craig Oliphant, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-K-1176

The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to provide guidance on whether the offense of vehicular homicide fit the general definition of a "crime of violence" under La. R.S. § 14:2(B).  Craig Oliphant struck and killed a pedestrian while driving his vehicle in a highly intoxicated state.  Thereafter, Oliphant pled guilty to a violation of vehicular homicide and was sentenced to twenty-five (25) years at hard labor, with the first fifteen (15) years without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.  The district court also designated his conviction as a "crime of violence."  The appellate court affirmed the conviction, but reversed the portion of the sentence designating vehicular homicide a "crime of violence."  As such, the appellate court vacated the twenty-five (25) year sentence and remanded the matter for resentencing.  The Supreme Court of Louisiana found that vehicular homicide is a "crime of violence" because the offense involves the use of physical force and the substantial risk that force will be used against another person in the commission of the offense as well as the use of a dangerous weapon.  Since the Louisiana Supreme Court found no error in the district court's "crime of violence" designation, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the court of appeal and remanded the case to the district court for resentencing.


State of Louisiana v. Jeremy Patterson, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-K-2042

State of Louisiana v. Billy Lewis, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-K-1021

The Supreme Court of Louisiana just addressed two New Orleans homicide cases where the issue presented centered on the appropriate remedy for a defendant when he is prohibited, in violation of Article 799.1 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, from using a peremptory challenge to back strike a provisionally selected juror.  Each ruling of the court ultimately resulted in new trials.


In State of Louisiana v. Billy Lewis, the Supreme Court of Louisiana agreed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal's determination that the error is one which is subject to harmless error analysis.  The supreme court nevertheless found the court of appeal misapplied the harmless error standard of review.  Since the Supreme Court of Louisiana could not conclude with certainty that the guilty verdicts rendered in this case were surely unattributable to the district court's error in prohibiting Lewis from using a back strike to peremptorily challenge a provisionally selected juror, the Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the decision of the appellate court, vacated defendant's convictions and sentences, and remanded this matter to the district court for a new trial.


In State of Louisiana v. Jeremy Patterson, Patterson was charged by grand jury indictment with one count of second degree murder in 2008. After Patterson was convicted at trial and his counsel was prohibited from using a back strike to peremptorily challenge a provisionally selected juror, the Fourth Circuit of Appeal reversed Patterson's conviction, once again applying a harmless error analysis.  Much like the appelalte court, the Louisiana Supreme Court also found that the district court's error in denying the back strike was not harmless. Consequently, finding the court of appeal correctly applied a harmless error analysis to the facts of this case, the Supreme Court of Louisiana affirmed the appellate court's decision, vacating Patterson's conviction and sentence, and remanding his case to the district court for a new trial.


Vuncannon, et al v. United States, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 12-60435

A man was injured while incarcerated in county jail and working on a work detail in connection with his incaration.  The county and the medical corporation that treated the man sought reimbursement of medical expenses from the Mississippi Public Entities Workers' Compensation Trust (MPE), the provider of workers' compensation insurance from the county.  Consequently, at issue was whether the man was covered under the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act (MWCA), Mississippi Code 47-5-417, -567, and thus was entitled to compensation benefits for injuries sustained while he was on work detail. The court concluded as a matter of law that the county had no enforceable contract to hire plaintiff, a prerequisite of coverage, and therefore, the court affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of MPE.


United States v. Vargas-Ocampo, United State Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-41363

Defendant was convicted at trial.  Thereafter, the defendant challenged one of two counts of his drug-trafficking conviction for insufficiency of evidence and the other for an erroneously submitted jury instruction. The court clarified that, because the Supreme Court had stated and repeatedly reaffirmed the constitutional test for sufficiency of the evidence to uphold a conviction, Jackson v. Virginia, the statements inconsistent with Jackson that have appeared in some Fifth Circuit cases must be disavowed. Nonetheless, when using the Jackson standard, the appellate court found that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of knowing, voluntary participation in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. In sum, the appellate court concluded that the district court neither erred nor abused its discretion in giving the aiding and abetting jury instruction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions.


Read the court's opinion here.


Get your designated drivers lined up, folks! 


The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has announced a DWI checkpoint for motorists at an undisclosed location on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish this Friday night (March 15, 2013). The checkpoint is scheduled for 8 p.m. to 2 a.m..


The checkpoint is part of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office effort to prevent alcohol-related injuries and fatalities. Intoxicated drivers will be arrested.


Motorists should also remember not to drive while under the influence of alcohol or any other substance that could lead to impairment (even over the counter or other prescription medications). If residents plan on drinking, they should choose a designated driver or simply call a cab.


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