Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tenth Circuit Breviaries

Last week at the Tenth Circuit:

Fourth Amendment: reasonable mistake of law

In United States v. Romero, the Tenth Circuit held that a police officer did not have probable cause to arrest Mr. Romero for obstructing an officer under a state law, as that law has been interpreted by the courts.

Image result for reasonable mistakeThe Tenth Circuit further held that any mistake of law by the arresting officer was unreasonable. A couple of highlights:

First, recall that the Supreme Court held that reasonable suspicion may rest on a mistake of law in Heien v. North Carolina. As the Tenth Circuit pointed out in Romero, the Tenth Circuit has yet to decide whether Heien applies to probable-cause determinations (the Court merely assumed this point without deciding it in Romero).

Second, an officer's mistake of law must be reasonable. Here, the law at issue had been interpreted several times, and the officer could not have reasonably mistaken it as applicable to Mr. Romero's conduct.

Jury instructions on lesser-included-offenses

In United States v. Antonio, the Tenth Circuit found no error in the district court's step-down instructions to only consider involuntary manslaughter if the jury did not unanimously find the defendant guilty of second-degree murder.

And the Tenth Circuit found no error in the district court's refusal to instruct the jury to consider “the boundary which separates the two crimes of murder and manslaughter.”

 Magistrates: authority to accept guilty pleas?

The Tenth Circuit has long held that "federal magistrate judges can accept and enter guilty pleas in criminal proceedings where the parties have consented to appearing before the magistrate judge." But other circuits disagree when it comes to felony pleas, and for good reasons. In United States v. Garcia, Chief Judge Tymkovich, writing for the panel majority, acknowledged those reasons and rang the certiorari bell: "Regardless of how we, as a circuit, continue to handle these matters, the Supreme Court will have the final word." Stay tuned . . . .

Indian Country

Want to learn more about subject matter jurisdiction and Indian Country? Read United States v. Antonio (finding evidence of territorial jurisdiction sufficient, and no procedural error).

Crimes of violence; 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); 28 U.S.C. §2255 timeliness; actual innocence

From United States v. Bowen:

"In short, we hold that United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), in which the Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) is void for vagueness, created a new substantive rule that is retroactively applicable on collateral review, and we conclude that Bowen’s convictions for witness retaliation do not qualify as crimes of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(A). Therefore, Bowen is actually innocent of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). The parties have agreed in this case that, if Bowen is actually innocent, his § 2255 motion is timely. Because Bowen is entitled to relief under § 2255, we REVERSE the district court’s dismissal of Bowen’s § 2255 motion and REMAND with instructions to VACATE his § 924(c)(1) conviction."

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