The Defender Services Office Training Division furthers the right to effective assistance of counsel by providing training and other resources to attorneys appointed under the Criminal Justice Act.

    July 18, 2014
    Sentencing Commission Votes to Retroactively Apply Its Amendment to the Drug Guidelines

    Today the Sentencing Commission voted to retroactively apply its guideline amendment reducing the offense levels in the drug quantity table by two levels. The Commission's decision includes a requirement that reduced sentences cannot take effect until November 1, 2015.  Read the full text of the retroactivity amendment in this Reader-Friendly Version.  For more on the Commission's decision, see this press release.  

    July 02, 2014
    Supreme Court to Rule on Drug Paraphernalia Conviction as a Deportable Offense

    Earlier this week the Court granted cert in Mellouli v. Holder (No. 13-1034) to decide the following question:  Whether, to trigger deportability under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), which provides that a noncitizen may be removed if he has been convicted of violating “any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 802 of Title 21) . . . ,” the government must prove the connection between a drug paraphernalia conviction and a substance listed in section 802 of the Controlled Substances Act.

    June 25, 2014
    Supreme Court Holds That a Warrant Is Required for Cell Phone Searches

    Today, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous, consolidated opinion in Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie (Nos. 13-132, 13-212), declining to extend the search incident to arrest exception in United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973) "to searches of data on cell phones, and hold[ing] instead that officers must generally secure a warrant before conducting such a search."

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    June 24, 2014
    Supreme Court Rules on Intent Required for Bank Fraud Conviction; Grants Cert on Forced Accompaniment in Bank Robbery Offenses

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Loughrin v. United States (No. 13-316), interpreting the provision of the federal bank fraud statute, 18 U.S. C. §1344(2), that prohibits a knowing scheme to obtain property owned by, or in the custody of, a bank "by means of false of fraudulent pretense, representations, or promises."  The Court unanimously held that this provision does not require proof of specific intent to deceive a bank. Petitioner could therefore be convicted under the statute for passing altered checks to obtain merchandise and cash from retailers.  For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post

    The Court also granted certiorari in Whitfield v. United States (No. 13-9026) to decide whether 18 U.S.C. § 2113(e), which provides a minimum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for a bank robber who forces another person “to accompany him” during the robbery or while in flight, requires proof of more than a de minimis movement of the victim.

    June 16, 2014
    Supreme Court Issues Opinion on Straw Purchasers; Grants Cert on Threats Under 18 U.S.C. § 875(c)

    Today, the Supreme Court decided Abramski v. United States (No.12-1493) and granted certiorari in Elonis v. United States (No. 13-983).

    In Abramski, the Court held that a straw purchaser can be convicted under 18 U. S. C. §922(a)(6) for making false statements about “any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale” of a firearm, regardless of whether or not the true buyer could have purchased the gun without the straw.  For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.

    In Elonis, the questions presented are:

    (1) Whether, consistent with the First Amendment and Virginia v. Black, conviction of threatening another person under 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten, as required by the Ninth Circuit and the supreme courts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont; or whether it is enough to show that a “reasonable person” would regard the statement as threatening, as held by other federal courts of appeals and state courts of last resort; and (2) whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, conviction of threatening another person under 18 U. S. C. § 875(c) requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten.

    June 03, 2014
    Supreme Court Rejects Application of Chemical Weapons Law to "Local" Crimes

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Bond v. United States (No. 12-158), addressing the use of a law implementing a chemical weapons treaty to prosecute a woman for attempting to poison her husband's lover.  The Court unanimously held that the federal prosecution was improper in this case.  According to the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts, the statute could not be read to reach Bond's conduct.  "We conclude that, in this curious case, we can insist on a clear indication that Congress meant to reach purely local crimes, before interpreting the statute’s expansive language in a way that intrudes on the police power of the States.”  In their concurring opinion, Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito declared that the law's application to Bond in this case was unconstitutional. For an analysis of the decision, see this SCOTUSblog post.  


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