Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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In this murder case, the Supreme Court clarified the correct standard for extreme emotional distress. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder for viciously torturing his girlfriend, ultimately causing her death. Defendant argued that he was under extreme emotional distress at the time of the murder. On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by not admitting statements under Utah R. Evid. 106 that Defendant made to a detective that he argued would have supported his claim for a reduced charge based on special mitigation for extreme emotional distress but that the error was harmless. The Supreme Court vacated the portions of the court of appeals’ decision that dealt with Rule 106 and the standard for extreme emotional distress, clarified the correct standard for extreme emotional distress, and affirmed the harmlessness determination of the court of appeals on affirmative grounds. View "State v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act, Utah Code 76-10-1601 to 1609, does not prevent the State from using evidence of acts on which the statute of limitations has expired to prove a pattern of unlawful activity. Defendant was charged with, inter alia, one count of participating in a pattern of unlawful activity. The State further alleged that Defendant had committed securities fraud and that some of those crimes were part of his pattern of unlawful activity. Defendant moved to exclude a number of the alleged acts on the basis that the statute of limitations had run. The district court granted the motion, agreeing with Defendant’s argument that a pattern of unlawful activity cannot be based on crimes that the State could not separately charge because they were time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the best reading of the Act permits the State to base a pattern of unlawful activity on crimes on which the statute of limitations has expired. View "State v. Stewart" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of rape of a child, holding that each of Defendant’s claims on appeal failed. Specifically, the Court held (1) this Court declines to consider whether the district court erred in relying upon each of the factors previously articulated in State v. Shickles, 760 P.2d 291 (Utah 1998), to determine the admissibility of Defendant’s previous acts of child molestation because review of this claim was precluded by the invited error doctrine; (2) the district court did not err in admitting evidence of Defendant’s prior acts of child molestation; and (3) Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel failed because he did not show that any of counsel’s alleged deficiencies constituted deficient performance and resulted in prejudice. View "State v Ring" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overruled the relevant portions of State v. Finlayson, 994 P.2d 1243 (Utah 2000), and State v. Lee, 128 P.3d 1179 (Utah 2006), that set forth and recapped the common-law merger test and announced that the controlling test is set forth in Utah Code 76-1-402(1). Defendant was convicted of one count of aggravated assault and one count of aggravated kidnapping. On appeal, Defendant argued that the two convictions should have merged pursuant to State v. Finlayson, P.2d 1243 (Utah 2000), and that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by not asking for an order to that effect. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that trial counsel was not ineffective because the convictions did not, in fact, merge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in view of the decision announced today, the court of appeals did not err in determining that Defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective. View "State v. Wilder" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The court of appeals has the same authority to overturn its own precedent as does the Supreme Court and did not err in this case in concluding that collateral legal consequences will not be presumed when an appeal from a probation revocation has otherwise become moot. While Defendant’s appeal of the revocation of his probation was in process, Defendant completed the sentence required by the revocation and was released. Although two of its prior decisions had contradictory holdings, the court of appeals dismissed Defendant’s case as moot because of his release. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals acted appropriately in overturning its prior precedent in this case; and (2) although collateral legal consequences are presumed to avoid mootness in appeals of criminal convictions, they are not presumed for appeals of probation revocations, and therefore, any defendant wishing to continue a moot appeal of a probation revocation must establish collateral legal consequences. View "State v. Legg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The court of appeals has the same authority to overturn its own precedent as does the Supreme Court and did not err in this case in concluding that collateral legal consequences will not be presumed when an appeal from a probation revocation has otherwise become moot. While Defendant’s appeal of the revocation of his probation was in process, Defendant completed the sentence required by the revocation and was released. Although two of its prior decisions had contradictory holdings, the court of appeals dismissed Defendant’s case as moot because of his release. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals acted appropriately in overturning its prior precedent in this case; and (2) although collateral legal consequences are presumed to avoid mootness in appeals of criminal convictions, they are not presumed for appeals of probation revocations, and therefore, any defendant wishing to continue a moot appeal of a probation revocation must establish collateral legal consequences. View "State v. Legg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during a Terry stop. Specifically, the Court held (1) when law enforcement officers stopped Defendant’s vehicle, they had reasonable suspicion to investigate two traffic violations and possible drug possession; (2) when the officers approached the vehicle they gained reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence; and (3) under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the officers were entitled to detain Defendant for a reasonable time while they investigated these offenses. View "State v. Binks" on Justia Law

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Here, the Supreme Court clarified the standard the Crime Victims Restitution Act (CVRA) requires the district court to employ to determine whether a defendant caused the loss for which a victim seeks restitution. Defendant in this case sexually abused Victim several times and pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Victim intervened in Defendant’s restitution hearing to seek restitution for the anticipated cost of mental health treatment for the remainder of her life. The district court entered orders for complete and court-ordered restitution. On appeal, Defendant argued that Victim’s damages were caused, in part, by her subsequent sexual abuse by another person and that the court based its complete restitution award upon speculation about expenses Victim would incur in the future. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that the CVRA requires that a district court include the losses that a defendant proximately causes in its complete restitution determination. Remanded with directions that the district court ensure that it rests its restitution calculation on non-speculative evidence of losses that Victim has incurred or will likely incur. View "State v. Ogden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of criminal homicide murder for killing Shannon Lopez. Defendant’s defense at trial was that Shannon shot herself. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in (1) admitting expert testimony that assessed Shannon’s risk of suicide, and (2) admitting evidence that Defendant had previously pointed a gun at Shannon’s had and had leveled a gun at an ex-wife and threatened to kill her. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the State did not lay a sufficient foundation to demonstrate that the theory its expert employed could be reliably used to assess the suicide risk of someone who had died; (2) the district court erred by admitting the evidence of Defendant’s prior actions; and (3) the errors were harmful. View "State v. Lopez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of criminal homicide murder for killing Shannon Lopez. Defendant’s defense at trial was that Shannon shot herself. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in (1) admitting expert testimony that assessed Shannon’s risk of suicide, and (2) admitting evidence that Defendant had previously pointed a gun at Shannon’s had and had leveled a gun at an ex-wife and threatened to kill her. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the State did not lay a sufficient foundation to demonstrate that the theory its expert employed could be reliably used to assess the suicide risk of someone who had died; (2) the district court erred by admitting the evidence of Defendant’s prior actions; and (3) the errors were harmful. View "State v. Lopez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law