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Due Process Protections Act Puts Prosecutors On Notice Regarding Disclosure Obligations under Brady v. Maryland

Recent legislation called the Due Process Protections Act amended Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Rule now requires district courts to issue orders at the initial appearance in every criminal case that reminds prosecutors of their obligations under Brady, lists potential consequences for violations, and sets deadlines for compliance.

Incoming Biden Administration Signals Increase of Criminal Prosecutions for Environmental Violations

The incoming Biden administration is expected to increase criminal prosecutions under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, as well as rollback prior administration directives that prioritized “compliance assistance” over seeking civil or criminal penalties. The Biden administration has also announced its intention to establish an Environmental and ClimateJustice Division to help the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resource Department investigate and prosecute violators of environmental laws and regulations.

Updated Compilation of Compassionate Release Grants

Attorney Tom Church has compiled a list of Compassionate Release grants and some of the key findings and information in the corresponding opinions. The list includes grants of release for inmates with specific medical conditions, inmates who have already tested positive for COVID-19 and/or recovered, inmates released from facilities that are reporting zero confirmed cases, …

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Recent Supreme Court Opinions

SCOTUS Declines to Determine Fourth Amendment Standard For Border Searches, Leaving Circuit Split Intact

The U.S. Supreme Court denied ceriorari to a petitioner seeking the Court’s determination as to what standard applies to Fourth Amendment searches at the U.S. border. The Court’s decision not to step in leaves in place a circuit split between courts that hold no probable cause or reasonable suspicion is required for law enforcement to conduct searches and those that hold there must at least be some degree of reasonable suspicion.

Andrus v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2020)

In a per curiam opinion, a majority on the Supreme Court vacated a defendant’s death sentence and held that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective based on his failure to perform mitigation investigation, putting up mitigating evidence that backfired by bolstering the state’s case, failing to investigate the state’s aggravating evidence, and failing to present significant mitigating evidence that he could have discovered.

Ramos v. Louisiana (U.S. Supreme Court, April 2020)

In a patchwork opinion involving a lengthy discussion of stare decisis, a majority of the Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a unanimous verdict in a criminal prosecution applies to the states through the Fourteenth amendment.

Recent Circuit Court Opinions

United States v. Otto Taylor (11th Cir. December 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s holding that a defendant was ineligible for a sentence reduction under Section 404 of the First Step Act, which made retroactive reduced mandatory minimums for crack cocaine offenses. The Court held that a defendant who has a “covered offense” is eligible for a reduction even if he was charged with other drugs that trigger the same statutory sentencing range.

United States v. Deangelo Johnson (11th Cir. December 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence, rejecting his Rehaif challenge. The Court held that there was plain error in the indictment failing to allege the element of knowledge and the lack of evidence proving that knowledge, but held that the defendant’s substantial rights were not affected because there was sufficient evidence that he knew of his prohibited status as a domestic violence misdemeanant.

United States v. Fernando Clarke (2d Cir. October 2020)

The Second Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for “transporting” child pornography after government agents downloaded illegal images from the defendant’s computer through a peer-to-peer filesharing program. The Court held there was sufficient evidence that the defendant knew he was making his images available for others to download based on his knowledge of how peer-to-peer programs work and that he had “transported” the images “by wittingly participating in a file-sharing network and downloading files from the computers of others” which “implicitly invited other participants in the file-sharing network to share his files, and enabled them to do so.”

The Federal Docket

The Federal Docket is a monthly newsletter providing lawyers and the community a summary of recent important decisions in the area of federal criminal law from the United States Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeal. The opinions are compiled, summarized and analyzed by Tom Church, an attorney in our firm’s federal criminal defense practice.

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