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AZ Supreme Court Rejects Presence of THC Metabolite as Proof of Drugged Driving

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors need proof a driver was impaired by his consumption of marijuana to convict of drugged driving. The presence of THC metabolites in the driver's blood is not enough.

The opinion, available here, states that medical evidence shows the presence of Carboxy-THC does not equate to impairment.

“Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as 28 to 30 days after ingestion, the state’s position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving anytime nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana,” Brutinel wrote. “Such a prohibition would apply even when the driver had no impairing substance in his or her body.”


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Supreme Court Takes Another Hit at Fourth Amendment

In a 6-3 opinion written by Justice Alito (Justices Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor dissented), the Supreme Court made another dent in the Fourth Amendment today. The case is Fernandez v. California and the opinion is here.

The Court upheld the search of a jointly shared residence even though one of the parties objected. The Court said he wasn't physically present when the search occurred, and it didn't matter that he wasn't there because the police had removed him from the residence -- after he objected to the search.

Previously, in Randolph v. Georgia, the Court held "a physically present inhabitant’s express refusal of consent to a police search[of his home] is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant.”

In this case, police came to suspect Fernandez' home and asked permission to search. Fernandez objected. They hauled him off to jail, came back later when his girlfriend (who was also an alleged victim) was there, and got consent from her. Fernandez' argument:[More...]

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Amanda Knox Convicted at Retrial

An Italian court has convicted Amanda Knox of murder at a retrial, sentencing her to 28 1/2 years in prison. Knox, who lives in Seattle, says she won't return to Italy.

The judge has 90 days to issue a written ruling, and the defense can appeal it.

It's unlikely she would be extradited.

It is unlikely that Knox, who lives in Seattle, Washington, will return to Italy to serve additional prison time because U.S. law dictates that a person cannot be tried twice on the same charge, a legal expert told CNN. He believes that if Italy were to ask for extradition, U.S. officials would deny the request.

Her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also convicted and sentenced to 25 years. He attended portions of the trial and testified at one point. He is an Italian citizen and remains in Italy. It's likely Italy will revoke his passport but he is not expected to be arrested before the judge issues his written ruling.

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Supreme Court: No Right to an Ethical Lawyer

The Supreme Court issued an opinion today in a prominent Michigan murder case, Burt v. Titlow. Details here. Shorter version: There is no constitutional right to an ethical lawyer. If your lawyer violates ethics rules in advising you or preparing your case, tough luck. Andrew Cohen has more.

The opinion is here. No surprise it was written by Justice Alito. Andrew says: [More...]

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1st Circuit Issues 57 page Opinion About Toilets and a 7 Day Jail Sentence

On a lighter note, via How Appealing: Senior U.S District Court Judge Richard Kopf (Nebraska)has a blog about the role of a federal judge called Hercules and the Umpire. A few days ago he wrote a post opining that no misdemeanor and 7 day jail sentence for abuse of a toilet and bathroom warrants 57 pages in an appellate decision. The opinion at issue: U.S. v. Strong, decided last week by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Kopf describes the case:

In Strong, the defendant was convicted of three misdemeanors, and received a sentence of seven days in jail, for literally messing up a bathroom in a federal court-house. He claimed to have a problem with his bowels, but the government saw his conduct in a more malicious light.

Judge Kopf also includes some personal details in his post, including that he's a "toilet freak" and the worst part of moving from being regular District Court Judge to senior status was losing his private bathroom.

I decided to read some more of Judge Kopf's blog. Parts of it are really funny.

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Sentencing Deal for Jeff Skilling Appears Likely

Former CFO of Enron Jeff Skilling may get his sentence cut appreciably if a deal under consideration between his lawyers and DOJ goes through.

DOJ has sent a written notice to victims:

"The Department of Justice is considering entering into a sentencing agreement with the defendant in this matter...."Such a sentencing agreement could restrict the parties and the Court from recommending, arguing for, or imposing certain sentences or conditions of confinement. It could also restrict the parties from challenging certain issues on appeal, including the sentence ultimately imposed by the Court at a future sentencing hearing."

Skilling, who has served six years, has yet to be resentenced following his appeal that tossed a few counts. He is currently scheduled for release in 2028. Will the deal be for time served?

Both Skilling and Blagojevich are serving their sentences at FCI Englewood. Blagojevich is scheduled for release in 2024. I wonder if they are pals.

Details of Skilling's original sentence here. Posts explaining the ensuing twists and turns are assembled here .

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Supreme Court : Copyright Infringement Cases, Different Outcomes

The record companies are happy today. Text book publishers and authors are not.

The Supreme Court has denied cert in the case of Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a native American who uploaded, downloaded or otherwise shared 24 songs on Kazaa, a now-defunct music file-sharing service, for personal use. The record companies sued, and the ultimate judgment against her, after several retrials and appeals with jury verdicts as high as $1.9 million, was $222,000, or $9,250 per song. The issue, according to the Petition for Cert (which includes the 8th Circuit and trial court's opinions in the Appendix portion):

Is there any constitutional limit to the statutory damages that can be imposed for downloading music online?

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Judge Rejects Zimmerman Request to Depose Ben Crump

George Zimmerman will not be allowed to depose Benjamin Crump, the judge ruled today.

The hearing is going on now, you can watch live here.

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AL Appeals Court Vacates Death Penalty Conviction : Pre-Trial Publicity

The Alabama Criminal Appeals Court has reversed the conviction and death sentence of a Vietnamese immigrant who allegedly killed his four children by throwing them off a bridge, citing the trial court's rejection of a motion to change venue due to pre-trial publicity. The 90 page opinion is here.

"It is clear that publicity surrounding the murders completely saturated the Mobile community in 2008. A great deal of that publicity was prejudicial... Luong was denied his constitutional right to an impartial jury. Therefore, we must reverse Luong's convictions and sentence of death and remand this case for a new trial."

The Court also ruled the trial judge erred by refusing to allow the defense to individually question the jurors, who had filled out questionnaires, on what they had heard about the case. [More...]

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Judge Uses Good Faith Exception to Save Cell Site Data Search

The Supreme Court ruled warrantless GPS monitoring of Antoin Jones violated his Fourth Amendment rights and could not be used at his trial. (Opinion here, background here.) Basically,

The case concerned Antoine Jones, who was the owner of a Washington nightclub when the police came to suspect him of being part of a cocaine-selling operation. They placed a tracking device on his Jeep Grand Cherokee without a valid warrant, tracked his travels for a month and used the evidence they gathered to convict him of conspiring to sell cocaine. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The Government then sought to introduce cell site locator data obtained by a court order (but not a search warrant establishing probable cause.) The judge has now ruled the cell site data can come in at trial. She said she didn't have to rule on the issue of whether a search warrant is required because the good faith exception to the warrant requirement saves the search. Wired's report is here.

The opinion is here. EFF filed this amicus brief. The Government's argument is here.(In non-legalese, here.) [More...]

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Judge Blocks PA Voter ID Law

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has blocked Pennsylvania's voter ID law. He ruled it could go into effect for next year's election, but cannot be implemented for the November elections.

His ruling came after listening to two days of testimony about the state's eleventh-hour efforts to make it easier to get a valid photo ID. He also heard about long lines and ill-informed clerks at driver's license centers and identification requirements that made it hard for some registered voters to get a state-issued photo ID.

The ruling, available here, was not based on constitutional issues.

Rather, the state Supreme Court had ordered him to stop the law if he thought anyone eligible would be unable to cast a ballot because of it or if he found the state had not complied with the law's promise of providing liberal access to a photo ID that voters were required to carry on Election Day.

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PA Supreme Court Vacates Order Denying Injunction on Voter ID Law

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court which refused an injunction against the Voter ID law. The opinion is here.

[W]e agree with Appellants’ essential position that if a statute violates constitutional norms in the short term, a facial challenge may be sustainable even though the statute might validly be enforced at some time in the future. Indeed, the most judicious remedy, in such a circumstance, is the entry of a preliminary injunction, which may moot further controversy as the constitutional impediments dissipate.


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