Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the conviction of Defendant for the murder of his wife. During trial, Defendant sought to reduce the conviction from murder to manslaughter by establishing special mitigation through extreme emotional distress. The jury rejected Defendant’s arguments for special mitigations. On appeal, Defendant argued that the jury instructions concerning extreme emotional distress were in error. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) a criminal defendant who seeks to establish special mitigation by extreme emotional distress must prove that his loss of self-control is reasonable; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the jury instructions accurately described the law. View "State v. Lambdin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Hadley Christensen, who claimed reimbursement pursuant to Utah Code 52-6-201 from Juab School District, his former employer, for attorney fees and costs incurred in a successful defense against charges of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The district court awarded judgment pursuant to a stipulation entered by the parties. The Supreme Court held (1) the reimbursement statute provides reimbursement for the successful defense against an information filed in connection with the acts of a public officer or employee; (2) under the reimbursement statute, Christensen was entitled to reimbursement; and (3) Christensen was charged under color of authority as a person in a position of special trust, a prong in the reimbursement statute. View "Christensen v. Juab School District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order granting Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained incident to his arrest. The district court concluded that the law enforcement officer who stopped Defendant’s vehicle for an improper lane change 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 (1) to promote officer safety, the Fourth Amendment does not prevent an officer from asking a passenger to produce identification and running a warrants check so long as that does not unreasonably prolong the duration of the stop; and (2) in this case, the officer’s seconds-long extension of the lawful traffic stop did not unreasonably prolong the detention. View "State v. Martinez" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims seeking a declaration that Utah Code 63G-7-601 and 78B-3-104 violate the Open Courts Clause of the state Constitution by restricting access to courts in lawsuits against police officers. The district court dismissed the claims on summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiff lacked traditional standing to challenge these statutory provisions and, alternatively, that his claims failed on the merits. The Supreme Court affirmed without endorsing the merits of the district court’s standing analysis or its alternative consideration of the merits, holding that Defendant failed to carry his burden on appeal of challenging the district court’s standing decision. View "Kendall v. Olsen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
An order of complete restitution that is part of a plea in abeyance is a final order for purposes of appeal. The two underlying cases in this appeal both turned on the same issue regarding whether orders of restitution that were part of pleas in abeyance were final orders appealable as of right. In the first case, the court of appeals determined that the order of restitution was not appealable. In the second case, the court of appeals concluded that it was bound by the holding in the first case. Both appeals were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the court of appeals in both cases, holding that the court of appeals had jurisdiction over Defendants’ appeals because the district court’s restitution orders for both Defendants were orders of complete restitution rather than court-ordered restitution. The court remanded the cases to the court of appeals to consider the merits of Defendants’ appeals. View "State v. Mooers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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