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.

    April 22, 2014
    Supreme Court to Determine Whether Possession of Short-Barrelled Shotgun Is an ACCA Violent Felony; and Whether a Mistake of Law Can Justify a Traffic Stop. Court Also Upholds a Traffic Stop Based on a 911 Report of Reckless Driving.

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted cert in an ACCA case, Johnson v. United States (No. 13-7120) and a traffic stop case, Heien v. North Carolina (13-604).  In addition, earlier today the Court issued an opinion in another traffic stop case, Navarette v. California (12-9490).

    Full story

    April 11, 2014
    Sentencing Commission Votes to Adjust the Drug Quantity Table Down by 2 Levels

    Yesterday, the Sentencing Commission voted on various amendments to the guidelines, including an amendment to adjust the Drug Quantity Table down by 2 levels. The amendments will be submitted to Congress by May 1, 2013, and, barring Congressional action, they will take effect November 1, 2014. 

    The amendment to the drug guidelines does not address retroactivity.  The Commission will publish an issue for comment on retroactivity, with comments due in June, 2014.

    Practitioners should consider using yesterday's vote on the drug guidelines to argue for a variance or continuance starting immediately.  As noted in this Latest News Post, last month DOJ directed "prosecutors not to object if defendants in court seek to have the [then] newly proposed [drug] guidelines applied to them during sentencing."

    For more on all of the amendments on which the Commission voted, including drugs, read this Summary of 2014 Guideline Amendments by Sentencing Resource Counsel.  The full text of the amendments is available in this Reader-Friendly Version.

    March 27, 2014
    Supreme Court Rules on What Constitutes a "Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence” Under 18 U. S. C. §922(g)(9)

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in United States v. Castleman (No. 12-1371), in which it held that Castleman's prior Tennessee conviction for "intentionally or knowingly caus[ing] bodily injury to" the mother of his child qualified as a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" under 18 U. S. C. §922(g)(9).

    Full story

    March 13, 2014
    Holder Supports Commission's Proposed Reduction in Drug Quantity Table and Directs Prosecutors Not to Object to Requests for Application of the Proposed Drug Guidelines in Current Sentencings

    At today's public hearing before the Sentencing Commission, Attorney General Holder voiced his support of the Commission's proposal to reduce the drug quantity table by 2 levels. See this DOJ press release for the text of Holder's testimony, as prepared for delivery.  According to the DOJ press release, until the Commission votes on the proposal, "the Justice Department will direct prosecutors not to object if defendants in court seek to have the newly proposed guidelines applied to them during sentencing." The DOJ submitted written comments on these and other proposed guidelines. 

    March 06, 2014
    Supreme Court Determines What Is Needed to Show Aiding and Abetting of an 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) Offense

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Rosemond v. United States (No. 12-895), addressing what constitutes aiding and abetting the use or carrying of a firearm during and irelation to any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). In an opinion authored by Justice Kagan, the Court held, "[T]he Government makes its case by proving that the defendant actively participated in the underlying drug trafficking or violent crime with advance knowledge that a confederate would use or carry a gun during the crime’s commission. We also conclude that the jury instructions given below were erroneous because they failed to require that the defendant knew in advance that one of his cohorts would be armed."

    For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post

    February 26, 2014
    Supreme Court Issues Opinions on Warrantless Search of Premises, Pre-Trial Restraint on Forfeitable Property, and Crime of Reentering a Miltiary Installation

    This week, the Supreme Court issued opinions in Fernandez v. California (No. 12-7822 ) (limiting the exception to the rule permitting warrantless searches of jointly occupied premises upon consent of one of the occupants); Kaley v. United States (No. 12-464) (permitting the pre-trial restraint on an indicted defendant's forfeitable property without a post-indictment judicial finding of probable cause), and United States v. Apel (No. 12-1038) (interpreting the term "military installation" under 18 U.S.C. §1382). 

    Full story

    January 28, 2014
    Supreme Court Rejects Drug Trafficking Sentencing Enhancement Where Defendant's Drug Sale Was Not the But-For Cause of User's Death

    In Burrage v. United States, decided yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously held that the government must prove but-for causation under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C) in order to trigger the 20-year mandatory minimum and increased statutory maximum for drug trafficking when "death or serious bodily injury results from the use" of the drug.  The Court reversed Burrage's conviction for distributing heroin with "death resulting," as the government conceded that there is "no evidence that [the victim] would have lived but-for his heroin use."  For an analysis of the opinion, see this SCOTUSblog post

    January 21, 2014
    Supreme Court to Hear Cell Phone Search Cases

    On January 17th the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases, United States v. Wurie (No. 13-212) and Riley v. California (No. 13-132), to address the constitutionality of a warrantless search of a cell phone at the time of arrest.  For more on these cases, see this SCOTUSblog post


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