Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants’ motion to suppress the result of a search executed pursuant to a search warrant. The warrant was signed by a magistrate and executed by the police. Defendants moved under the state and federal constitutions to suppress the result of the search, challenging the magistrate’s probable cause determination. The district court found that there was no probable cause but that the federal good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. When Defendants again moved to suppress, the court suppressed the evidence under the state constitution, concluding that there was no state good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The Supreme Court reversed without reaching the questions of whether the court has recognized an exclusionary rule under the Utah Constitution or whether there should be a good faith exception to such a rule, holding that there was a substantial basis for the magistrate’s probable cause determination. View "State v. Rowan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal of the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to aggravated murder and other offenses and no contest plea to three counts of attempted aggravated murder. The district court denied the motion on the ground that the Plea Withdrawal Statute, Utah Code 77-13-6, provides that a “request to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest…shall be made by motion before sentence is announced.” On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of the statute and contended that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when he entered the plea agreement. The Supreme Court held (1) the jurisdictional bar imposed by the Plea Withdrawal Statute does not deprive a defendant of his constitutional right to an appeal; and (2) Appellant did not timely move to withdraw his pleas, and therefore, Appellant forfeited his right to direct appeal. View "State v. Allgier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the holding in Gailey v. State, 379 P.3d 1278, that the Plea Withdrawal Statute “does not on its face violate the constitutional right to appeal” but also decided an issue that the Gailey majority did not reach, holding that Utah’s Plea Withdrawal Statute, Utah Code 77-13-6, is constitutional as applied because the statute does not foreclose an appeal but simply sets a rule of preservation and imposes the sanction of waiver of the issue on appeal for the failure to follow that rule. Defendant pled guilty to aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping. Defendant attempted to withdraw his guilty plea by submitting a pro se letter to the district court. Defendant’s subsequently acquired counsel, however, successfully moved to withdraw Defendant’s pro se motion. Defendant appealed, seeking to set aside his guilty plea. Specifically, Defendant argued that the district court erred in accepting his plea, that his counsel provided ineffective assistance, and that the Plea Withdrawal Statute is unconstitutional because it infringes on his right to appeal under Utah Const. art. I, 12. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s constitutional challenges to the statute failed. View "State v. Rettig" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court adjudicating D.G. and R.G. delinquent for committing aggravated sexual assault. The juvenile court denied the motions filed by D.G. and R.G. to suppress their post-Miranda statements regarding the sexual assault to a detective during an interview, and both interviews with the detective regarding the sexual assault were introduced at trial. D.G. and R.G. appealed, arguing that the juvenile court erred in denying the motion to suppress their post-Miranda statements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Miranda warnings given to D.G. and R.G. were sufficient according to the standards set by this court and the United States Supreme Court; and (2) both D.G. and R.G. knowingly and voluntarily waived their Miranda rights. View "In re R.G." on Justia Law

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The court of appeals erred in concluding that exceptional circumstances merited review of an issue not preserved in the trial court and not argued on appeal. Defendant was found guilty of murder. On appeal, the court of appeals asked for supplemental briefing on an issue that was not argued by the parties. After supplemental briefing, the court of appeals reversed Defendant’s conviction, concluding that a homicide by assault jury instruction was erroneous. In so ruling, the court decided that the exceptional circumstances exception to the preservation rule permitted the court to examine the unpreserved and likely invited error. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the exceptional circumstances exception to the preservation rule did not apply in this case. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this criminal case convicting Defendant of murder, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ conclusion that exceptional circumstances merited review of an issue not preserved in the trial court and not argued on appeal. After supplemental briefing, the court of appeals reversed Defendant’s conviction, concluding that the homicide by assault instruction given to the jury was erroneous. Although Defendant never preserved an objection to the instruction and likely invited the error by submitting the instruction to the court, the court of appeals decided that the exceptional circumstances exception to the preservation rule permitted the court to examine the error. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in overruling the trial court sua sponte on an issue that was neither preserved in the trial court nor argued on appeal. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and sentence of a composite term of thirty years to life in prison. The court held (1) to the extent that Defendant’s arguments that the district court erred in admitting expert testimony by a forensic interviewer at the Children’s Justice Center, they lacked merit; (2) the district court did not violate Defendant’s constitutional right to present a complete defense when it excluded evidence of a witness’s supposed prior false accusations of sexual misconduct; and (3) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court’s sentencing decision. View "State v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court disavowed its holding in State v. Brooks, 638 P.2d 537 (Utah 1981) that counsel always has the same motive to develop testimony at a preliminary hearing that she will have at trial. At issue was the admission of preliminary hearing testimony of an unavailable witness at Defendant’s criminal trial. The court of appeals concluded that the unavailable witness’s testimony was properly admitted under Utah R. Evid. 804. On appeal, Defendant argued because Utah Const. art. I, section 12 limits preliminary hearings to establishing probable cause, his counsel had a different motive in conducting cross-examination at the preliminary hearing than she would have at trial. The Supreme Court agreed and held (1) a district court should examine preliminary hearing testimony to ensure that the defendant possessed a similar motive before admitting the testimony under Rule 804; (2) the court of appeals in this case erred when it affirmed the admission of the witness’s preliminary hearing testimony; and (3) the admission of preliminary hearing testimony constituted error with respect to Defendant’s misdemeanor conviction, but its admission was harmless as to Defendant’s felony conviction. View "State v. Goins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the legislature’s classification of offenses in the DUI and measure substance statutes. The Supreme Court thus reversed the court of appeals’ decision vacating Defendant’s second degree felony convictions under the Uniform Operation of Laws Clause of the Utah Constitution. The court of appeals concluded that the classification of Defendant’s three crimes as second degree felonies under the measurable substance provision ran afoul of the Uniform Operation of Laws Clause. The court of appeals, however, rejected Defendant’s challenge to the imposition of consecutive sentences for the three counts against him. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision upholding Defendant’s sentences and thus reinstated the convictions and sentences as entered and imposed against Defendant in the district court. View "State v. Ainsworth" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of attempted murder but affirmed Defendant’s conviction of possession of a firearm by a restricted person. The court found that Defendant’s counsel provided ineffective assistance when he failed to object to a defective jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of attempted manslaughter, and the error prejudiced Defendant’s trial. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals with respect to the jury instruction issue, holding that the court of appeals erroneously failed to perform fully the prejudice analysis required by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and that Defendant was not prejudiced by his counsel’s complicity in the jury receiving a flawed instruction. View "State v. Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law