Weekly Case Summaries: February 22, 2013

Supreme Court of the United States

Chaidez v. United States

No. 11-820        02/20/12    (6+1-2)

Issue:

Does Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S.Ct. 1473 (2010)—holding that defense counsel can render ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to adequately admonish a defendant of the immigration consequences of his guilty plea—apply retroactively to cases already final on appeal?

Holding:

(Kagan, J.) No. Padilla broke new ground by changing the law in most jurisdictions; thus, it “developed” new law. Under Teague v. Lane, 109 S.Ct. 1060 (1989) a new law does not apply to convictions already final on direct appeal.
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Concurrence:

(Thomas, J.)  Padilla was wrongly decided so a Teague analysis is wholly unnecessary.

Dissent:

(Sotomayor and Ginsburg, J.J.) Yes. Padilla did no more than merely apply the general standard of Strickland v. Washington, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (1984)—governing ineffective assistance of counsel claims—in another situation.

Commentary:

If you are in a county where a lot of Padilla writs have been filed, you know how huge this decision is and how helpful it will be for prosecutors. The victory is even more significant because the decision could have gone the other way. Several appellate courts had already decided against the State on the issue of retroactivity, holding that Padilla was nothing more than another ineffective assistance of counsel case. But after two years, we know Padilla is in fact a watershed holding that has been overturning conviction after conviction. If your defendant was convicted after Padilla, Chaidez will not help you. But in the vast majority of cases, Chaidez is fantastic.

Florida v. Harris

No. 11-817        02/19/13    (9-0)

Issue:

In determining if the alert of a drug-detection dog during a traffic stop provides probable cause to search a vehicle, must the State present exhaustive records—including a log of the dog’s field performance—to establish the dog’s reliability?

Holding:

(Kagan, J.) No, this approach flouts the accepted test. In making probable cause assessments the court has generally “rejected rigid rules, bright line tests, and mechanistic inquiries in favor of a more flexible, all-things-considered approach.” Instead, “[t]he question—similar to every inquiry into probable cause—is whether all the facts surrounding the dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime. A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test.” Here, Aldo the dog’s training records were enough to establish him as reliable drug detector.
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Commentary:

This decision should be helpful to prosecutors as well. I do not know how often the reliability of drug detection dogs is actually challenged. But this case will make it clear that a showing of reliability need not be a herculean task. Probable cause is a much more attainable standard, and we generally use drug detection dogs to show only probable cause, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bailey v. United States

No. 11-770        2/19/13    (6-3)

Issue:

Can a person who has left premises subject to a search warrant and is nearly one mile away be arrested under Michigan v. Summers, 101 S.Ct. 2587 (1981)?

Holding:

(Kennedy, J.) No. Under Summers, an officer’s authority to detain incident to a search is categorical, but the detainee must be in the “immediate vicinity” of the premises. Nearly one mile away is too far. Beyond the immediate vicinity, officer safety, completion of the search, and preventing flight no longer support the arrest.
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Concurrence:

(Scalia, Ginsburg, & Kagan, J.J.) No. Summers is categorical. It applies to those occupants in the “immediate vicinity” of the searched premises. “[T]he government must take the bitter with the sweet.”

Dissent:

(Breyer, Thomas, & Alito, J.J.) Yes. The difference between the distance in Summers (the front doorstep of the premises) and here (nearly a mile away) did not make a “constitutional difference.”

Commentary:

In an unexpected way, this decision might be helpful to prosecutors in Texas, but only time will tell. In Texas, we have had to deal with Lippert v. State, 664 S.W.2d 712 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984), which applied Michigan v. Summers. It is possible that some of the language from the Supreme Court’s new decision might give us arguments against Lippert in the right case. If you have a case in which officers have detained someone on or near the premises of where a warrant is being executed, read this decision and see if it helps.

Evans v. Michigan

No. 11-1327        2/20/ 13    (8-1)

Issue:

Where the State fails to prove an element—one not required for the charged offense—and a trial court enters an acquittal, is retrial barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause?

Holding:

(Sotomayor, J.) Yes. The result of erroneous evidentiary rulings or erroneous interpretations of governing legal principles may affect the accuracy of an acquittal but they do not alter the essential character of it. These rulings and interpretations, however, should be distinguished from procedural dismissals or mistrials that are unrelated to factual guilt or innocence. Double jeopardy implications attach to the former but not the latter. Even though the trial court was wrong here—based “upon a clear misunderstanding of what facts the State need to prove”—the error affected only the accuracy, not the essential character, of the ruling.
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Dissent:

(Alito, J.) “The Court’s decision makes no sense.” The decision is inconsistent with the original meaning of the Double Jeopardy Clause and its purposes. The “double jeopardy protection is not triggered by a judge’s erroneous preverdict ruling that creates an ‘element’ out of thin air and then holds that the element is not satisfied.”

Commentary:

This decision is entirely consistent with holdings from the Court of Criminal Appeals. See State v. Blackshere, 344 S.W.3d 400 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). If a trial judge issues a directed or instructed verdict, even erroneously or by a mistaken understanding of the law, that is still an acquittal. And the State cannot try the defendant for the same offense. Trial judges, therefore, need to be aware of the extreme power they hold to unnecessarily destroy a prosecution.

Texas Attorney General

Opinion for Hunt County District Attorney

No. GA-0991        2/19/13

Issue:

May a district judge prohibit the director of a community supervision department from delegating his duties with regard to presentence investigations?

Opinion:

A district judge does not have authority to order the director of a CSCD who does not supervise defendants placed on community supervision to personally conduct a presentence investigation under CCP art. 42.12, §9(a), nor does a judge have authority to order the director to personally appear in court to present the investigation report. A director may delegate report preparation and presentation duties that art. 42.12, §9(a) does not specifically impose on someone else.
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