Sunday, June 7, 2020

Tenth Circuit Breviaries

Fourth Amendment

While an officer may ask a passenger for identification during a traffic stop, the passenger's failure or refusal to provide it does not establish probable cause for an arrest. This point of law is clearly established in the Tenth Circuit. And thus the district court properly denied an arresting officer qualified immunity in Corona v. Aguilar.

A district court must not "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the government" when deciding a motion to suppress. Rather, it must "assess the credibility of witnesses and determine the weight to give the evidence presented." So the Tenth Circuit reminded district courts in United States v. Goebel.

In Goebel, the Tenth Circuit also held that a police officer had reasonable suspicion to detain Mr. Goebel based on a combination of factors (that you can read for yourselves), and that the detention was not unreasonably prolonged. Nor was any delay causally linked to the officer's discovery of evidence. 

Fifth Amendment

A brief conversation on a public sidewalk between the officer and Mr. Goebel while Mr. Goebel was detained was not a custodial interrogation for Miranda purposes. And Mr. Goebel's other statements were Mirandized, knowing, and voluntary (and not incriminating in any event).


No plain error in United States v. Trujillo, where the district court accepted Mr. Trujillo's 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) guilty plea without advising him that he was required to know he was a felon to be convicted. This was not structural error (the Tenth Circuit disagrees with the Fourth Circuit here), and Mr. Trujillo failed to show (under the third plain-error prong) that absent the error, he would not have entered the plea (given his 6 prior felonies and 4 prior years in prison). And even if he had met that prong, he would lose under the fourth prong: "Where the evidence of Defendant's knowledge of his felony status is 'overwhelming and uncontroverted,' the real threat to the 'fairness, integrity, and public reputation of judicial proceedings' would be if Defendant were permitted to withdraw from a plea unequivocally supported by the facts and for which Defendant has no defense."

Sentencing: substantive reasonableness

In United States v. Sandoval, the Tenth Circuit rejected Mr. Sandoval's claim that his 27-month within-guideline prison sentence for assault was substantively unreasonable. More specifically, the Circuit held that USSG  § 2A2.2, the assault guideline, is not manifestly unreasonable because it does not distinguish between intentional and reckless conduct. Nor was a downward variance required by the fact that Mr. Sandoval's adjusted offense level for a reckless assault was only one level below the base offense level for involuntary manslaughter. 

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