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Showing posts from November, 2009

United States v. Ruckes: Evidence Admissible Despite Illegal Vehicle Search

In United States v. Ruckes, the Ninth Circuit court of Appeals upheld the admissibility of drug and firearm evidence in a case where law enforcement conducted an illegal search of a vehicle under the doctrine of inevitable discovery. The Court followed the recent Supreme Court decision of Arizona v. Gant, which limits searches of automobiles, pursuant to the driver’s arrest, to situations where the driver is “unsecured and within reaching distance” of the interior of the car at the time of the search or where it is reasonable to expect evidence related to the crime underlying the arrest might be found in the vehicle. In Ruckes, the driver was arrested for driving without a license and secured in the back of a patrol vehicle. The Court found that since no evidence related to unlawful driving might be found in the car, and since Mr. Ruckes posed no danger of getting a weapon from the car at the time of the search, the search would otherwise be illegal under the Gant decision. However, t…

Recent Case Holding: People v. Stevens (deputy can stand next to testifying defendant)

Last Thursday, the California Supreme Court ruled that positioning a uniformed deputy next to a testifying criminal defendant isn't inherently prejudicial. Justice Carol Corrigan wrote that "jurors may view the sight of an officer accompanying the defendant to the witness stand as nothing more than a routine measure." On the dissent, Justice Carlos Moreno, joined by Justice Joyce Kennard, said that such an act posed a "serious risk" to an individual's right to a fair trial.

This case occurred in Alameda County, when the trial judge directed a deputy to stand at a defendant's side as he testified on his own behalf in a rape trial. The defense argued that this was akin to a "human shackle" unjustified by good cause. Nonetheless, the majority of the Court held that the presence of a deputy "does not directly impair the accused's mobility, nor does it create the affront to human dignity that we have lamented in the context of visible shack…

November 1, 2009 Amendments to United States Sentencing Guidelines with respect to Sex Crimes

Taking effect on November 1, 2009, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has made several changes to the federal Sentencing Guidelines in a number of ways relating to sex crimes. The amendments address an enhancement for undue influence of a minor as well as changes to the child pornography and human trafficking guidelines.

Undue Influence Amendments
§2A3.2 (Criminal Sexual Abuse of a Minor Under the Age of Sixteen Years (Statutory Rape) or Attempt to Commit Such Acts) and §2G1.3 (Promoting a Commercial Sex Act of Prohibited Sexual Conduct with a Minor; Transportation of Minors to Engage in a Commercial Sex Act or Prohibited Sexual Conduct; Travel to Engage in Commercial Sex Act or Prohibited Sexual Conduct with a Minor; Sex Trafficking of Children; Use of Interstate Facilities to Transport Information about a Minor) each contain an enhancement for undue influence where “a participant otherwise unduly influences the minor to engage in prohibited sexual conduct.”

Two issues have arisen involving…