Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant was entitled to withdraw his plea of guilty to rape because the district court abused its discretion by mechanically applying the factors set forth in State v. Shickles, 760 P.2d 291 (Utah 1988) to assess the probative value of the state’s Utah R. Evid. 404(b) evidence. In making this determination, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the district court was required to apply the doctrine of chances’ four foundational requirements, outlined in State v. Verde, 296 P.3d 673 (Utah 2012), to conclude that certain testimony was admissible under Utah R. Evid. 403. Thus the court affirmed the court of appeals’ ultimate conclusion that the district court’s evidentiary ruling was in error but under different reasoning. View "State v. Lowther" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Petitioner’s conviction for dealing materials harmful to minors, holding that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to assert a free speech First Amendment defense and that such a defense would have succeeded if it had been raised. The conviction stemmed from the interception of drawings Petitioner had sent to his five-year-old daughter from jail depicting Petitioner as naked and holding his daughter in the air. The district court granted summary judgment to the State on Petitioner’s petition for post-conviction relief, concluding that Petitioner suffered no prejudice because his First Amendment defense lacked merit. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated Petitioner’s conviction, holding that Petitioner’s drawing was not overtly sexual or sexually suggestive, and therefore, Petitioner’s First Amendment defense was viable. View "Butt v. State" on Justia Law

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The plain language of Utah Code 41-6a-517, does not require a showing of impairment, and the statute does not violate the federal or state constitutions. Defendant was charged under section 41-6a-517 with operating a motor vehicle with a metabolite of a controlled substance in his body. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Defendant entered a plea of no contest, reserving his right to appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an individual violates section 41-6a-517 when he or she operates or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in the person’s body; and (2) the statute does not violate the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution or the uniform operation of laws provision of the Utah Constitution. View "State v. Outzen" on Justia Law

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Utah Code prohibits subsequent state prosecution of the “same offense” for which defendant was convicted in federal court. Robertson was convicted by the federal government for possession of child pornography. The state subsequently charged him with 20 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor based on the same conduct. Robertson cited Utah Code section 76-1-404: [i]f a defendant‘s conduct establishes the commission of one or more offenses within the concurrent jurisdiction of this state and of another jurisdiction, federal or state, the prosecution in the other jurisdiction is a bar to a subsequent prosecution in this state if . . . the former prosecution resulted in an acquittal, conviction, or termination . . . and the subsequent prosecution is for the same offense. The Utah Supreme Court’s interpretation of section 404, in State v. Franklin, permitted subsequent prosecutions by different sovereigns, for the same offense. The court of appeals affirmed Robertson‘s convictions. The supreme court reversed, overruling Franklin and holding that the statute’s use of the phrase “same offense” is an express rejection of the dual sovereignty doctrine. Section 404 requires courts to employ only the Blockburger-Sosa test: two offenses are not the same if each requires proof of an element that the other does not. Section 404, properly interpreted, prohibits the state from prosecuting Robertson. View "State v. Robertson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order granting Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained after a law enforcement officer stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation and searched Defendant, a passenger, incident to his arrest on an outstanding arrest warrant. The district court had concluded that the trooper had violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights when he asked to see Defendant’s identification and ran a warrants check without reasonable suspicion that Defendant had committed or was about to commit a crime. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the officer’s seconds-long extension of the lawful traffic stop to request Defendant’s identification did not unreasonably prolong the detention and that officer safety concerns justified the “negligibly burdensome extension of the traffic stop[.]” View "State v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of possessing a shank in prison. Defendant appealed, arguing (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because the State lost or destroyed a video recording of the discovery of the shank, and (2) his counsel was ineffective in stipulating to the due process analysis applicable to claims regarding evidence destroyed or lost by the State. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the due process analysis set forth in State v. Tiedemann, Defendant’s due process rights were not violated; and (2) Defendant’s counsel did not provide ineffective assistance. View "State v. Mohamud" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of assault by a prisoner. Defendant appealed, arguing (1) the district court erred in denying her motion to dismiss because a video recording of the assault was lost or destroyed by the State, and this loss of evidence violated her due process rights; and (2) the district court applied the wrong legal standard to her claim by imposing a threshold requirement that she demonstrate a reasonable probability that the evidence would have been exculpatory. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court correctly recognized that the due process analysis set forth in State v. Tiedemann encompasses a threshold reasonable probability requirement; (2) the court erred by applying an overly stringent interpretation of what constitutes a “reasonable probability” and in ruling that Defendant failed to satisfy the threshold requirement; (3) the court erred in its application of the factors set forth in Tiedemann; and (4) dismissal was the appropriate remedy for the negligence of the State in failing to preserve the footage and the crucial role that footage would have played in this case. View "State v. DeJesus" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was charged with the alleged rape or object rape of four women. During Defendant’s trial for the rape of K.S., the State moved to introduce the testimony of the other women, including A.P., under Utah R. Evid. 404(b) and the doctrine of chances. The district court granted the motion. Thereafter, Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to the rapes of two of the four women. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding (1) State v. Verde’s four foundational requirements displaced the factors set forth in State v. Shickles for purposes of a Utah R. Evid. 403 balancing test; and (2) the district court erred in its decision to admit the testimony of A.P. The Supreme Court affirmed but under different reasoning, holding (1) in applying Rule 403, a court is bound by the language of the rule but is not required to consider any set of elements or factors; and (2) the district court in this case did not abuse its discretion in failing to consider the Verde requirements but did abuse its discretion by mechanically applying the Shickles factors to assess the probative value of the State’s Rule 404(b) evidence. View "State v. Lowther" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The mandatory joinder statute, Utah Code 76-1-401, prohibits the State from prosecuting a defendant in separate actions for conduct that may establish separate offenses under a “single criminal episode.” A “single criminal episode” is defined as “all conduct which is closely related in time and is incident to an attempt or an accomplishment of a single criminal objective.” Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the wage crimes prosecution as barred by the mandatory joinder statute, arguing that the State violated section 76-1-401 by prosecuting him from 2011 to 2012 for wage crimes after having prosecuted and convicted him in 2009 and 2010 for tax crimes. Petitioner argued that the conduct underlying both prosecutions was part of a single criminal episode because it was closely related in time and incident to an attempt of accomplishment of the single criminal objective of misappropriation of money in his business setting. The district court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s conduct did not have a single criminal objective and thus did not constitute a single criminal episode. View "State v. Rushton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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This case involved a claim for restitution by the victim of a sex crime committed by Defendant. The State alleged that Defendant’s crimes led to the victim’s depression, which impacted her ability to work and required counseling. The district court ordered Defendant to pay $12,934 in lost income in addition to restitution of the costs of the victim’s counseling. On appeal, Defendant challenged the lost income award, arguing that lost income is not available under the Crime Victims Restitution Act unless “the offense resulted in bodily injury to a victim.” The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that restitution for lost income was not available in this case because there was no allegation that Defendant’s offense “resulted in bodily injury” to the victim. View "State v. Wadsworth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law