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.

    August 12, 2015
    Fourth Circuit Ruling on Warrant Requirement for Historical Cell Site Records Creates Circuit Splits

    Last week, the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Graham held that there was an expectation of privacy in historical cell site records and that a warrant is required to obtain and inspect such information.  The case it at odds with several other Circuit rulings, which may lead to Supreme Court review.  For an analysis of the case see:

    Fourth Circuit adopts mosaic theory, holds that obtaining “extended” cell-site records requires a warrant

    June 30, 2015
    Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Lethal Injection Protocol; Grants Cert on Two Criminal Procedure Issues

    Yesterday the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Glossip v. Gross (No. 14-7955), rejecting an Eighth Amendment challenge to Oklahoma's lethal injection drug protocol.  For more on the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.  

    The Supreme Court also granted cert in Musacchio v. United States (No. 14-1095), which raises the following questions:

    (1)  Whether the law-of-the-case doctrine requires the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case to be measured against the elements described in the jury instructions where those instructions, without objection, require the government to prove additional or more stringent elements than do the statute and indictment?

    (2) Whether a statute-of-limitations defense not raised at or before trial is reviewable on appeal?

    June 26, 2015
    Supreme Court Strikes Down ACCA Residual Clause as Unconstitutional

    Earlier today the Supreme Court held in Johnson v. United States that the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. §924(e)(2)(B), is unconstitutionally vague:

    "We hold that imposing an increased sentence under the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act violates the Constitution’s guarantee of due process. Our contrary holdings in James and Sykes are overruled. Today’s decision does not call into question application of the Act to the four enumerated offenses, or the remainder of the Act’s definition of a violent felony." Scalia, J.

    June 23, 2015

    Recent Supreme Court Actions on Criminal Law Issues

    In the past week the Supreme Court has issued opinions and granted cert in several cases of interest to criminal defense practitioners. 

    Ohio v. Clark (No. 13-1352) held that the introduction at trial of statements made by a three-year-old boy to his teachers identifying his mother's boyfriend as the person who injured him did not violate the Confrontation Clause because the statements were not made with the primary purpose of creating evidence for a criminal case. For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post

    In McFadden v. United States (No. 14-378) the Court held that in order to convict someone of distribution of a controlled substance analogue, the government must prove the defendant knew the substance constituted a controlled substance analogue.  For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post

    The Court also issued an opinion in Brumfield v. Cain (No. 13-1433), holding that a Louisiana death-row inmate was entitled to have his Atkins claim considered on the merits after the state court rejected his claim without affording him an evidentiary hearing or granting him time or funding to secure expert evidence. 

    In addition to the above opinions the Court also granted cert in Luis v. United States (No. 14-419) to decide whether the pretrial restraint of a criminal defendant's legitimate, untainted assets needed to retain counsel of choice violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

    June 02, 2015
    Supreme Court Issues Decisions on Internet Threats, and Drug Paraphernalia as Predicate Conviction for Removal

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Elonis v. United States (No. 13-983), overturning Mr. Elonis' conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) for posting threatening comments on Facebook.  The Court held that, contrary to the jury instruction provided in this case, "negligence is not sufficient to support a conviction under Section 875(c)."  For more on the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.

    The Court also decided the immigration case of Mellouli v. Lynch (No. 13-1034), holding that Mr. Mellouli's Kansas conviction for possessing drug paraphernalia to store four unnamed pills in a sock did not trigger removal under 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(B)(i). For more on the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.


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