Fifth Circuit

United States v. Rodolfo Rodriguez-Leos (5th Cir. March 2020)

Sentencing Guidelines

The defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of ammunition by a person admitted to the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa. Law enforcement had witnessed the defendant purchasing ammunition and leaving it in locations to be picked up and eventually smuggled into Mexico. At sentencing, the district court applied the enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(6)(A) based on the defendant’s intent to transport the ammunition out of the U.S. Since the ammunition was possessed in connection with another offense, exporting the ammunition without a valid export license, § 2K2.1(c)(1) directed the court to cross reference to § 2X1.1 (Attempt, Solicitation, or Conspiracy).

The district court declined to apply the three-level reduction under § 2X1.1(b)(1), which applies when the offense constitutes a mere attempt, based on the PSR’s assertion that the defendant had “completed all the acts necessary and, but for the apprehension, was able to complete all the acts.”

On appeal, the Court reversed, holding that the district court had committed clear error. First, the Court held that the defendant’s written objection to the PSR was sufficient to preserve his claim on appeal, despite the defendant citing the incorrect subsection. The Court then held that the defendant had not “completed all the acts necessary given the lack of evidence that he knew the guns were being smuggled and the fact that he was apprehended “well before” he and his co-conspirators had completed the acts necessary for exporting the ammunition without a license.

Appeal from the Southern District of Texas

Opinion by Dennis, joined by Graves and Willett

Click here to read the opinion.

United States v. Robert Warren Scully (5th Cir. March 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant's conviction, holding that the good faith exception applied to law enforcement's search of two separate addresses despite only identifying one address in the search warrant. The Court noted that the lack of signs distinguishing the two addresses and their proximity made it reasonable for the officers to treat the two addresses as one.

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United States v. Corey Smith (5th Cir. March 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant's conviction, holding that a traffic stop was not unlawfully prolonged where the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle and asked questions about the driver and passengers' reasons for travel and destination, and new reasonable suspicion was created based on "implausible elements" and contradictory answers in the driver and passengers' responses to the questioning.

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United States v. Odis Lee Jackson (5th Cir. December 2019)

The Fifth Circuit held that the de novo standard of review applies to a district court's determination regarding a defendant's eligibility under the First Step Act, but that the abuse-of-discretion standard applies to the district court's decision whether to actually reduce the defendant's sentence.

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United States v. Charles Fulton Sr. (5th Cir. June 2019), On Petition for Rehearing

The Court agreed that the initial warrant by local law enforcement failed to particularize that computers, electronics, or phones were to be seized, so the seizure of the phone was improper. However, the Court held that the evidence was admissible under the good faith exception, since the federal agents that later acquired the phone from the local police and executed a search warrant did not know the police seized it unlawfully (as they had held on to the phone for a year) and since the applicability of the warrant to cell phones was a close question.

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