Fifth Circuit

The Federal Docket

United States v. Coulter (5th Cir. July 2022)

The Fifth Circuit reversed a district court’s order suppressing statements a defendant made without Miranda warnings while the defendant was handcuffed and detained after a traffic stop. The Court reasoned that no reasonable person would believe they were in custody, since the defendant had indicated he knew he was being handcuffed and detained for “officer safety,” and thus would not have believed he was under arrest.

United States v. Morris (5th Cir. July 2022)

The Fifth Circuit vacated a district court’s denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained from a traffic stop. The Court held that the district court erred in finding there had not been a “stop” since the officers’ flagging down the defendant’s car, ordering him out of the car, and demanding compliance with their commands established a seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

United States v. Alvarez (5th Cir., July 2022)

Andres Manuel Alvarez was stopped by police because he matched the description of a “Hispanic male” who was in his general area and fleeing the service of an outstanding warrant on a “bicycle with large handlebars.” Though he was determined not to be the person they were looking for, Alvarez was found to have a […]

United States v. Vargas (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s sentence as a career offender based on his prior convictions. The defendant argued that his prior convictions did not count as “controlled substances” under the Guidelines since the Guidelines themselves do not include inchoate drug offenses like attempt and conspiracy–only the commentary to the Guidelines does. The Fifth Circuit deepened a circuit split by holding that the commentary are still binding on courts notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Kisor v. Wilkie.

United States v. Hamann (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction after finding that the Government violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause when it presented testimonial hearsay from two non-testifying witnesses that alleged the defendant sold drugs. In doing so, the Fifth Circuit recounted its recent cases involving Confrontation Clause challenges and how the government “has repeatedly failed to take the lesson.”

United States v. Stoglin (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence after holding that the district court improperly enhanced the sentence under 18 USC 3559(c). The Court concluded that the defendant’s prior convictions for aggravated assault under Texas law were not convictions for a “serious violent felony” under 3559(c) because a defendant need only act “recklessly” to be convicted.

United States v. Perry (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for carrying a firearm during a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime under 924(c). The trial court had erroneously instructedhe jury that it could find the defendants guilty of those charges if they used or carried a firearm in relation to either the “crime of violence” charged by their RICO conspiracy count or the drug trafficking crime charged, but RICO is not a “crime of violence” under Fifth Circuit precedent.

United States v. Tucker (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm by someone adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution. The trial court erroneously instructed the jury that it could find the defendant guilty based on finding he was either adjudicated a mental defective OR had previously been committed, though the indictment only alleged the former and not the latter.

United States v. Sincleair (5th Cir. October 2021)

The Fifth Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing based on the district court’s erroneous application of the firearm enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1). The PSR did not include sufficient facts to establish a temporal and spatial relationship between the defendant, the gun, and the drug trafficking activity. The defendant was not shown to have any connection to or knowledge of the gun, and the district court failed to make a record of what its rationale may have been supporting the enhancement.

United States v. Gardner (5th Cir. October 2021)

The Fifth Circuit vacated a district court’s order denying a defendant’s request to withdraw his guilty plea. The defendant had alleged that had wanted to file suppression motions and that he would not have pleaded guilty but for his then-attorney telling him the time for filing motions was after the change of plea hearing. The Court held that the defendant had alleged sufficient facts that, if true, would have established ineffective assistance of counsel.

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