the statewide investigation along with the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ. They will also be working with the State of Georgia and its Department of Corrections to determine whether inmates’ rights have been violated due to the conditions of their confinement.
The Department of Justice has announced a new written policy prohibiting the use of “chokeholds” and “carotid restraints,” a method of knocking out a detainee by restricting blood flow to their brain, unless an officer is authorized to use deadly force. The DOJ also announced a new policy limiting the use of “no-knock” warrants and entries. The policies will be applied across the entire Department of Justice and its sub-agencies.
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According to the New York Times, the Biden administration is considering allowing certain inmates on CARES Act home confinement to remain free if they have a prior conviction for a nonviolent drug offense and have less than four years on their sentence. As things stand, any other type of inmate on home confinement will have to report back to prison when the pandemic ends.
Recent Supreme Court Opinions
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In a 6-3 opinion with several justices concurring in the judgment, the Supreme Court reversed the denial of a defendant’s suppression motion after an officer entered his garage without a warrant after chasing him for a misdemeanor traffic offense. The Court held that the flight of a person suspected of a misdemeanor does not categorically create exigency sufficient to allow the warrantless entry into a home. Instead, a case-by-case analysis must be performed to see if, under the totality of the circumstances, there is a true emergent need to act before a warrant could be obtained.
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In a 9-0 decision (with J. Sotomayor concurring in the judgment), the Supreme Court held that a defendant who had been convicted for a crack-cocaine offense that did not carry a mandatory minimum did not have a conviction for a “covered offense” under the First Step Act and was thus ineligible to move for a sentence reduction. The First Step Act had the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive.
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In an almost unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that defendants in post-conviction proceedings alleging plain error under Rehaif must make a sufficient showing that they could have presented evidence at trial that they did not know they were a felon at the time they possessed the firearm. The Court affirmed the conviction of two defendants, one who pleaded guilty and one who was convicted by a jury, after finding that neither of them had presented any evidence or argument that they were unaware that they were felons and that both had multiple prior convictions.
Recent Circuit Court Opinions
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence from a traffic stop. The Court held that the officer’s mistaken interpretation of Alabama traffic law was reasonable, the officer did not unlawfully prolong the stop by asking the driver about his plans and itinerary or allowing his dog to sniff near the car, and there was probable cause to search the vehicle based on the dog’s change in behavior near the car, though the dog did not give a “final response” indicating the presence of drugs.
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Limiting the discretion district courts have grant motions for compassionate release or sentence reductions, the Sixth Circuit held that a district court cannot base a finding of “extraordinary and compelling reasons” on non-retroactive changes in the law or facts that existed when the defendant was sentenced, even taken together.
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The First Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence for maintaining a drug involved premises. The Court held that the district court erred in applying the higher offense level under USSG 2D1.8(a) because there was insufficient evidence that the defendant had participated in the underlying drug offense beyond providing her apartment to her boyfriend as a place to sell and store drugs. The fact that she knew about his drug activities and accompanied him on some of his trips to resupply, standing alone, were not enough to show she participated.
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.