Ninth Circuit

The Federal Docket

United States v. Julian Mora-Alcaraz (9th Cir. January 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s order suppressing a defendant’s statements under Miranda. The officers had interrogated the defendant without advising him of his Miranda rights after they approached him in marked cars and separated him from his seven-year-old son. However, the Court remanded for the district court to determine if the defendant’s subsequent consent to search his vehicle was voluntary.

United States v. Tamaran Bontemps (9th Cir. October 2020)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Court held that there was reasonable suspicion to detain and search the defendant based solely on the officer believing he had a concealed firearm (illegal in California) after noticing a “very large and obvious bulge” under the defendant’s sweatshirt. The Court also discussed other kinds of “suggestive bulges” that can give rise to reasonable suspicion, such as when a defendant is hiding drugs.

United States v. Miguel Angel Cano (9th Cir. September 2020), Denying Rehearing En Banc

The Ninth Circuit declined a rehearing en banc, leaving in place a panel opinion holding that a warrantless forensic search of the defendant’s phone was outside the scope of a permissible routine border search and violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court held that warrantless border searches are limited in scope to routine customs inspections for contraband, not evidence, that the only kind of contraband on a phone is child pornography, and that the officers did not have reasonable suspicion that the phone contained child pornography.

United States v. Javier Garcia (9th Cir. August 2020)

The Ninth Circuit vacated the defendant’s conviction and held that the attenuation doctrine should not have been applied to deny his motion to suppress. The officers’ second, discretionary search of the defendant’s home was a direct result of a prior unlawful sweep of the home during which officers discovered that the defendant had a condition of supervised release allowing searches. The temporal proximity between the searches and the investigatory motives of the officers outweighed the intervening nature of discovering the condition of supervised release, and evidence discovered during the second search should have been suppressed.

United States v. Alexander Oriho d/b/a Rhino’s Med. Trans, LLC (9th Cir. August 2020)

In a matter of first impression, the Ninth Circuit vacated a defendant’s pre-trial repatriation order under a de novo standard of review after finding the order violated the defendant’s right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. The Court further held that the district court’s application of the forgone conclusion exception was too broad while the government’s limited use immunity was too narrow to protect the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights.

United States v. Enrique Valencia-Lopez (9th Cir. August 2020)

The Ninth Circuit vacated a defendant’s conviction for transporting marijuana and remanded for a new trial because the district court did not properly assess the reliability of the government’s expert witness, an ICE agent, who testified that the cartel does not employ unwilling couriers. The Court held that this was harmful error because it directly undercut the defendant’s credibility and duress defense.

United States v. Tuan Luong (9th Cir. July 2020)

The Ninth Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence because the district court erred in failing to consider whether the defendant had accepted responsibility. Though the defendant had gone to trial, he had admitted factual guilt and relied on a defense that the government lacked jurisdiction under the Hobbs Act. The Court held that a defendant may still receive credit for accepting responsibility after making good faith challenges to a statute’s applicability in a criminal case.

United States v. Ezequiel Moran-Garcia (9th Cir. July 2020)

The Ninth Circuit vacated a defendant’s conviction because the trial court decided venue as a legal question and did not give a venue instruction to a jury.

United States v. Nikolay Bocharnikov (9th Cir. July 2020)

The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress statements. The Court held that the defendant’s second interview with the FBI was not sufficiently attenuated from his first interview eight months prior, where he was unlawfully detained and interrogated, based on the FBI telling him they were there to ask “follow up” questions and never read him his Miranda rights. The Court further noted that the fact that eight months passed and the agents did not act deceitful was not dispositive.

United States v. Maher Obagi and Mohamed Salah (9th Cir. July 2020)

The Ninth Circuit reversed convictions for fraud because the government disclosed material impeachment evidence about one of its witnesses after the close of evidence and after it had given its closing argument. The defendants were prejudiced by this untimely disclosure, especially given the length of jury deliberations and split verdict.

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