Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Police found more than 80 grams of red methamphetamine in a car. The ensuing investigation resulted in the indictment of 12 people for a drug-distribution conspiracy; 11, including Garcia, pleaded guilty. Pineda-Hernandez stood trial and was convicted. The Seventh Circuit found that the judge improperly enhanced Garcia’s sentence based on a prior drug conviction. That conviction involved an Indiana law that then banned manufacturing or delivering “marijuana, hash oil, hashish, or salvia.” Decisions by Indiana’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals show the statute is not divisible and the modified categorical approach does not apply. Inclusion of salvia in the statute excludes it from the federal definition of “felony drug offense,” so Garcia’s prior conviction is not a “felony drug offense” and does not support the sentencing enhancement. The court affirmed with respect to Pineda-Hernandez, who spoke little English, rejecting claims of multiple errors involving an alleged language-interpretation debacle and that the judge improperly augmented his sentence based on his role. No widespread or particular interpretation errors deprived Pineda-Hernandez of due process. Pineda-Hernandez’s arguments that he was not the leader or organizer do not overcome the bulk of the evidence showing he exercised some significant control and was responsible for some significant organization of others. View "United States v. Pineda-Hernandez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Ingram committed three robberies and one attempted robbery. Police identified Ingram from his social media postings and two anonymous tips. Charged with three counts of Hobbs Act robbery and one count of attempted Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and four counts of brandishing a firearm in connection with each of those crimes of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c), Ingram admitted guilt as to Counts 1–4 but contested the four 924(c) charges. During the first robbery, Ingram shoved into the store clerk’s back what she believed was a gun. The clerk did not see, and the security cameras did not capture an image of, the object that Ingram shoved against her back. During the next robbery, he pulled out a gun and demanded money. Three days later, Ingram robbed another salon, threatening a clerk and customers with a gun. Ingram then tried to rob a store. Despite her terror at Ingram’s weapon, the clerk could not open the register. Ingram argued that the government had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the object he had brandished was actually a firearm. The district court rejected that argument; he was convicted on all counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction and that his conviction on Count 8 cannot stand because attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a crime of violence. View "United States v. Ingram" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Dodds applied for a passport using his brother’s personal information, rather than his own because he was restricted by a condition of probation. He pleaded guilty under 18 U.S.C. 1542. He did not object to any of the proposed supervised-release conditions, which concerned: refraining from excessive alcohol use; remaining within the jurisdiction unless granted permission to leave; permitting a probation officer to visit places including work; submitting to searches of person, property, residence, vehicle, papers, electronic communications, or office upon reasonable suspicion; community service until gainfully employed; not maintaining employment that includes access to personal information; and, as directed by a probation officer, third-party notifications. The court asked, “can [I] impose these conditions without reading them verbatim?”, counsel responded, “yes,” then asked: “Are there any objections ... to any of the proposed conditions of supervised release?”, counsel stated, “No.” Dodds later objected to the search condition. The court rejected his argument, explaining, “the needs for reasonableness and to take into account Mr. Dodds’s privacy while balanced against the need to make sure that Mr. Dodds is not misusing identities or identity documents or engaged in financial wrongdoing, which his history suggests he poses some risk of doing.” Dodds was sentenced to six months in prison and three years’ supervised release. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the challenged conditions were unconstitutionally vague or lacked adequate justification. Dodds waived any objection other than to the search condition. View "United States v. Dodds" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Day, age 18, weighed 312 pounds and had an underlying heart condition. Day was confronted outside a store after apparently shoplifting a watch. Day refused to return to the store. A mall security officer noticed Day had a gun. A chase ensued; Day eventually collapsed. Police arrived. Day’s gun was out of his reach. Officers handcuffed Day behind his back. Day stated he was having trouble breathing; officers instructed him to take deep breaths. Day would not maintain a seated position. Officers positioned Day to lie on his side to prevent Day from asphyxiating by rolling onto his stomach. An ambulance arrived to evaluate Day five minutes later. Day appeared to breathe normally, stated he had no preexisting medical conditions and was able to speak clearly. After multiple tests, paramedics concluded Day did not need to go to a hospital. When the jail wagon arrived, Day was unresponsive, lying on his back with his hands still cuffed. A second ambulance arrived 43 minutes after the first. Day was pronounced dead. There were no visible signs of trauma. The autopsy report listed his cause of death as “Sudden Cardiac Death due to Acute Ischemic Change” with contributory causes: “Sustained respiratory compromise due to hands cuffed behind the back, obesity, underlying cardiomyopathy.” Day had never complained about the handcuffs. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the court concluded the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit reversed. There is no precedent clearly establishing that the officers violated any right of an out-of-breath arrestee to not have his hands cuffed behind his back after he complains of difficulty breathing. There was no evidence that the handcuffs were the cause of Day’s breathing difficulty before the autopsy report. View "Day v. Wooten" on Justia Law

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In 1998, an Illinois state court convicted Williams, a teenager, of first‐degree murder. Williams was paroled in 2008 but had his parole revoked after pleading guilty to domestic battery. In 2017, he traded cocaine to his employer for a firearm. His employer cooperated with the government. Williams pled guilty to possession of a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2). The court confirmed Williams’s admission that he possessed a firearm; that the firearm had traveled in interstate commerce; and that he had been convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year. The court sentenced him to 96 months’ imprisonment, below the Guidelines range. Four months later, the Supreme Court held that an element of a conviction under section 922(g), 924(a)(2), is the defendant’s knowledge of his status as a felon or alien illegally in the U.S. The government would have needed to prove—or Williams to admit—that he knew he had “been convicted in any court of[] a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” Williams sought to vacate his conviction and withdraw his guilty plea. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction. Williams failed to carry the burden of showing that his erroneous understanding of section 922(g) affected his decision to plead guilty. Williams cannot plausibly argue that he did not know his conviction had a maximum punishment exceeding a year. Williams would have to convince a jury that he either had no knowledge of where he spent 12 years or that he believed Illinois had imprisoned him 11 years beyond the maximum punishment for first‐degree murder. Most defendants would want to avoid informing the jury of a murder conviction. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Subdiaz‐Osorio stabbed his brother to death during a drunken fight in Wisconsin. He attempted to flee but was stopped in Arkansas while driving to Mexico. At Subdiaz‐Osorio’s request, the interview in Arkansas was conducted in Spanish. Neither Subdiaz‐Osorio nor Officer Torres had any trouble understanding each other. Subdiaz‐Osorio signed a waiver of his Miranda rights, indicating that he understood his rights. During the interview, after discussing the extradition process, Subdiaz‐Osorio asked in Spanish, “How can I do to get an attorney here because I don’t have enough to afford for one?” The officer responded: If you need an attorney‐‐by the time you’re going to appear in the court, the state of Arkansas will get an attorney for you. The interview continued for an hour with Subdiaz-Osorio’s full cooperation. Denying a motion to suppress, the court concluded that Subdiaz‐Osorio’s question about an attorney was not a request to have an attorney with him during the interview; he was asking about how he could obtain an attorney for the extradition hearing. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed, that Subdiaz‐Osorio did not unequivocally invoke his Fifth Amendment right to counsel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Subdiaz‐Osorio’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). The state court finding was not contrary to or based on an unreasonable application of established Supreme Court precedent. View "Subdiaz-Osorio v. Humphreys" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Guerrero, a Chicago police officer who participated in drug trafficking, pleaded guilty to conspiring to participate in racketeering activity, conspiring to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana, interfering with commerce by threats or violence, and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence and drug trafficking. Guerrero’s guideline range for the first three counts was life in prison and for the fourth count was 60 consecutive months. He provided substantial assistance in prosecuting co-conspirators and the government recommended that he serve 228 months. Sentencing Guidelines Amendment 782 became effective in 2014, retroactively reducing by two levels the offense levels for most drug-trafficking crimes. Guerrero sent the district court a letter requesting that he be appointed counsel in order to seek resentencing under the amendment. The district court rejected Guerrero’s 2015 request and additionally found that Guerrero was eligible for a two-level reduction under Amendment 782 but that the reduction would make no difference to his ultimate sentence: Guerrero filed a motion for clarification. The court construed that as a late motion to reconsider and denied it. In 2018, Guerrero tried again, with counsel. The district court denied the motion without considering the merits. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The 2015 proceedings should not be counted against Guerrero as his one chance to seek relief under Amendment 782. View "United States v. Guerrero" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2006, Allgire was charged with multiple drug-related offenses. He pleaded guilty to two charges and served concurrent terms of 233 months and 120 months. Allgire then began serving concurrent supervised release terms but violated the conditions and was sentenced to seven months’ reimprisonment or, alternatively, up to six months in a halfway house, plus another 24 months’ supervised release. A month into his time at a halfway house, Allgire absconded and spent seven months on the run. The guidelines range for his violation was five to 11 months. The district court felt that Allgire had taken advantage of the court’s previous leniency, having been given a 53-month reduction for cooperating with the government in his initial sentence, and time in a halfway house rather than in prison. The court sentenced Allgire to 24 months’ imprisonment for violating the terms of supervised release on one count of his conviction and 17 months’ imprisonment on the other, to run concurrently. The parties agreed that any additional supervised release would be futile. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the 24-month sentence was unreasonable and that the district court lacked authority to impose a concurrent 17-month sentence. The district court “ably explained its decision to vary upward from the guidelines range.” View "United Statesx v. Allgire" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated Dr. Ley and his opioid addiction treatment company, DORN, conducted undercover surveillance, and decided Ley did not have a legitimate medical purpose in prescribing Suboxone. Indiana courts issued warrants, culminating in arrests of four physicians and one nurse and seven non-provider DORN employees. Indiana courts dismissed the charges against the non-providers and the nurse. Ley was acquitted; the state dismissed the charges against the remaining providers. DORN’s providers and non-provider employees sued, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and civil conspiracy. The district court entered summary judgment for the defendants, holding probable cause supported the warrants at issue. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to every plaintiff except Mackey, a part-time parking lot attendant. One of Ley’s former patients died and that individual’s family expressed concerns about Ley; other doctors voiced concerns, accusing Ley of prescribing Suboxone for pain to avoid the 100-patient limit and bring in more revenue. At least one pharmacy refused to fill DORN prescriptions. Former patients reported that they received their prescriptions without undergoing any physical exam. DORN physicians prescribed an unusually high amount of Suboxone; two expert doctors opined that the DORN physicians were not prescribing Suboxone for a legitimate medical purpose. There was evidence that the non-provider employees knew of DORN’s use of pre-signed prescriptions and sometimes distributed them. There were, however, no facts alleged in the affidavit that Mackey was ever armed, impeded investigations, handled money, or possessed narcotics. View "Vierk v. Whisenand" on Justia Law

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Edwards pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, 18 U.S.C. 2250 (SORNA). It was his fourth conviction for a failure to register a change of address as required by state and federal statutes. The district court ordered him to serve a prison term of 27 months and imposed three conditions on his supervised release: a requirement that, as required by his probation officer, he inform employers, neighbors and family members with children, and others of his criminal record, his obligation to register as a sex offender, and other SORNA requirements; a ban on meeting, spending time with, or communicating with any minor absent the express permission of the minor’s parent or guardian and the probation officer; and a bar on working in any job or participating any volunteer activity in which he would have access to minors, absent prior approval of his probation officer. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the conditions. Although Edwards has never committed a “hands‐on” sexual offense against a child, the district court expressly considered that point and articulated a reasonable basis to believe that such restrictions were warranted. Edwards has possessed and distributed child pornography, including pornography depicting adults having sex with minors. The court noted his enduring sexual interest in children and his pattern of deception and non‐compliance with the conditions of his release. View "United States v. Edwards" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law