In McCoy v. Lousiana, the United States Supreme Court will address the issue of who has the authority to control the decision to admit guilt, the lawyer or the client.  Can the Lawyer for strategy reasons, concede guilt to avoid the death penalty?  This was the issue facing a criminal defense lawyer who despite his client’s wishes conceded guilty to spare his client the death penalty.  The strategy failed.  His client appealed to the United States Supreme Court arguing that a lawyer cannot concede guilty over his clear objection.

The defendant wanted to maintain his innocence, but the lawyer disagreed and required the defendant plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty.  The issue raised by this case is that even if it is a good strategy to concede guilt, can the lawyer make that decision over the client’s objection.

In a criminal case, there are certain decisions that the client has absolute control over:

A Florida pre-teen was found dead in her home in Glades, Florida on January 10. The alleged culprits in the case, two middle-schoolers, are facing cyberstalking charges after one of their classmates, Gabriella Green, took her own life after being harassed on the internet through various social media platforms.

Cyberbullying, as defined by the United State Government, is bullying that takes place using electronic technology.  Essentially, the term “cyberbullying” describes the act of harassing, threatening or intimidating another individual via electronic means such as by use of cell phones, computers, tablets, and social media platforms.

Cyberbullying is illegal in Florida as well as in states across the country and can result in criminal charges. Generally speaking, cyberbullying is a crime most prominent among young adults, teenagers, and preteens. It is a crime of the generation; social media platforms are becoming increasingly popular “weapons” for teenagers to bully one another.

A judge in Iowa recently dismissed “Bachelor” Chris Soules constitutional challenge to an Iowa law, which requires any surviving driver involved in a fatal accident to remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives. Soules’ argument comes as he is trying to avoid prison, after fatally rear-ending a neighbors tractor; Soules was ultimately charged with leaving the scene of a fatal car crash, a class D felony charge, for his role in the April accident that resulted in the death of his neighbor. If convicted of the crime, Soules could face up to 5 years in an Iowa State prison.

The law in which Soules is seeking to challenge states specifically that “a surviving drier shall promptly report the accident . . . and should immediately return to the scene of the fatal accident or inform law enforcement where he or she can be located following the accident”. Prosecutors in the case are making their arguments clear that Soules completed neither of the above-mentioned requirements. He left the scene following the accident and did not attempt to make his whereabouts known to authorities.

Soules attorneys worked to highlight many of the steps Soules took following the incident to help his neighbor; he called 911 following the accident and identified himself as being involved in the accident, administered CPR to the suffering victim, and remained at the scene until the ambulance arrived. The major issue surrounding the case is that Soules was driven home before law enforcement arrived.

As a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer, the outcome of serious criminal cases can often come down to very specific facts developed during a motion to suppress.  In the case of Commonwealth v. Aderito Barbosa, the defendant was charged with Human Trafficking.  This is a criminal offense that carries up to twenty years in a Massachusetts State Prison; if found guilty of the crime you are required to serve a minimum mandatory five-year state prison sentence. If the victim is under the legal age in Massachusetts, you could be looking at a life sentence.

In this case, the police raided the defendant’s hotel room at the Park Plaza in Boston.  Upon exiting the elevator, the defendant was greeted by the police.  Knowing what they were there for, he requested an attorney and said he would exercise his Miranda rights.  He tried to flee and was alleged to have resisted arrest and, at that time, requested a lawyer.  As part of an arrest, police are permitted to conduct a search incident to arrest.  A search incident to arrest is a search conducted by the police during the actual arrest; they are legally permitted to search the person being arrested, including his or her immediate surroundings.

Federal laws mandate that the police may search for weapons, contraband, or evidence of a crime, even if it is not related to the crime for which the individual is being arrested for. However, in Massachusetts, police are only granted the authority to search for evidence which is related to the crime.

In the case of Huertas v. United States, the defendant is requesting that the United States Supreme Court grant certiorari in his case, to address the issue of when an individual can be seized for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment.  In order to trigger a defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, the person must be seized under the law.  For example, a person is not automatically seized any time there is interaction with the police.  A court will look at the circumstances of the encounter and attempt to determine if a reasonable person would not feel free to leave.  Cases involving flight from the police raise interesting Fourth Amendment issues.

The Branden case was a gun charge.  In gun crimes, often the police will receive anonymous tips that are frequently uncorroborated that a person has a gun.  In the Branden case, the defendant initially spoke to the officer.  The defendant submitted to the officer’s show of authority for between 30 and 60 seconds.  When the officer got out of his car, the defendant ran and discarded a gun while running from the officer.

By temporarily complying with the officer’s show of authority, the defendant argued that he was seized under the Fourth Amendment. The defendant argued that since the defendant was seized, the seizure was unlawful because it was not supported by reasonable suspicion.

The United States Supreme Court is considering an appeal in the case of Gonzalez-Badillo v. Unites States which will address the issue of whether a general consent to search justifies searching a closed container under the Fourth Amendment.  In the Badillo case, the defendant gave a general consent to search as he was at a bus station.  The officer inspected the bags of the defendant and thought his shoes were lumpy.  The officer could see plastic inside the slit of the sole of the shoe but could not see anything illegal.  The officer opened up the sole without obtaining further consent for the search.

The Fifth Circuit found that the search was lawful because once the officer told the defendant that he was looking for anything illegal, the defendant could expect that he would search any item that might contain drugs.  The Court further concluded that the boots were suspicious and that the defendant failed to object during the search made the consent valid.

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Dissenting Justice Elrod of the Fifth Circuit found that a general consent to search cannot be interpreted as authorization to destroy personal property during the search.  Justice Elrod found that consent to search which includes unlocked containers cannot be said to include the right to damage property found within the containers.

In the case of Earley v. New Jersey, the defendant has asked the United States Supreme Court to address the issue of the standard to be applied when the police destroy evidence.

The leading case from the United States Supreme Court addressing this issue is Arizona v. Youngblood.  In that case, the United States Supreme Court held that the State violates a defendant’s due process rights when the police destroy potentially exculpatory evidence and the defendant can show bad faith on the part of the police.  Under this standard, the meaning of bad faith has been left to individual courts to define.

There are varying standards Courts have applied:

In February, the United States Supreme Court will hear a case which sheds light on whether or not the prosecution can legally use a defendant’s previously-obtained incriminating statement as evidence at a preliminary or probable cause hearing; the Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether or not this violates a person’s fifth amendment.

The fifth amendment of our constitution guarantees that “no person … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against him or herself”.  The main issue, in this case, is that if the Fifth Amendment is violated when a criminal defendant is compelled to incriminate himself, should the statement be allowed as evidence in a probable cause hearing?

The case, City of Hays, Kansas v. Vogt, is a case that will challenge the scope of the fifth amendment self-incrimination clause. The defendant in the case, Matthew Vogt, was a police officer in Hays, Kansas, but was in the interview process with the police department in another town, Haysville. During the interview process, Vogt disclosed that he had kept a knife that he obtained while working for the City of Hays.

In December, the Supreme Court began oral arguments in a Colorado case, where a shop owner denied service to a same-sex couple looking to purchase a cake. As the arguments ensued, it began clear that the justices were sharply divided and highlighted many of the issues, on both sides, in the case: religious beliefs and anti-discrimination laws.

The Colorado case dates back to 2012 when a gay couple, Charlie Craig and his partner David Mullins, walked into a cake shop requesting a cake to celebrate their same-sex marriage; their wedding was to be held in Massachusetts, but their cake was for a reception they were holding in Colorado for their friends and family. The owner of the shop, a religious man named Jack Phillips, declined to make them a cake due to his Christian values.

The rules governed by anti-discrimination agencies in Colorado suggest that Phillips’ refusal to provide a cake for a same-sex marriage celebration violated laws and that, legally, he had no right, by free speech, to turn down the cake request by the two men. Phillips was informed that if he was to make wedding cakes for heterosexual weddings, he is also legally required to do so for weddings where the two parties are of the same sex.