Federal Appeals Archives

Judge: Tennessee can't take away driver's licenses for court debt

A federal judge has ruled that Tennessee's practice of revoking driver's licenses merely because defendants can't afford to pay court fines and fees. Since the law doesn't provide an exception for the indigent, it violates people's right to due process and equal protection under the law.

Supreme Court affirms warrants required for searches around homes

The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed that police need to obtain a warrant to search the premises around someone's home, even if they think they have spotted stolen property there. They aren't allowed to take a quick peek and initiate a search based on what they see.

Driving a rental car? Police need probable cause to search you

When you're driving in your own car, the police can't just pull you over for no reason -- they need reasonable suspicion that you've committed an offense. Once they've stopped you, they need probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed before they can perform a full search of your vehicle. This is because the Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from performing unreasonable searches and seizures.

SCOTUS: Certain constitutional appeals still allowed after pleas

The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled in favor of an appeal for a man who styles himself a "constitutional bounty hunter." He pled guilty to a gun possession crime but then sought to appeal the constitutionality of the statute.

Supreme Court: Is phone location data admissible without warrant?

The U.S. Supreme Court has just heard an appeal on whether police can collect cellphone location data without a warrant and still have it be admissible against criminal defendants. The case pits Americans' privacy rights against the government's interest in easy access to personal data that can solve crimes.

When does having separate trials violate double jeopardy?

Sometimes, a single defendant is subjected to two separate trials. This is often done in an effort to protect the defendant's right to a fair trial when something in the first trial would create undue prejudice among the jury in the second trial, or vice versa. But what if part of the second trial depends on facts being decided in the first trial?

Improper jury instructions overturn conviction of NY assemblyman

Former New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted in November 2015 of public corruption charges including extortion, money laundering and honest services fraud. This week, a three-judge federal appeals panel overturned his convictions on those three counts. A 2016 Supreme Court decision has narrowed the definition of public corruption since his conviction, but the instructions the jury was given in the Silver case reflected the old definition.

In Silk Road appeal, judges question 'social utility' of sentence

A little more than two years ago, a young man with the pseudonym "Dread Pirate Roberts" was convicted of running the dark web drug marketplace known as the Silk Road. It was considered a major coup for the government, although it is unclear whether shutting down the Silk Road was effective at curtailing the sale of illicit substances online. "Roberts" was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole, however, which some observers saw as unusually harsh considering the largely nonviolent nature of the crimes.

Federal judge in Nashville resigns, denounces mandatory minimums

Becoming a federal judge is the dream of a lifetime for many, but it does have its downsides. Those downsides could include something like the lack of ability to advocate for causes you care about, or they might involve dissatisfaction with aspects of the position itself.

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