You may remember the plight of Matthew Charles. Convicted for a crack offense, Charles was lucky enough to be released from prison in 2016, nearly a decade before his term was up. He had been saved -- he thought -- by a reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines' mandatory sentences for crack offenses.
In 2015, Tyson Timbs pled guilty to heroin charges and sentenced to five years' detention and probation. However, since his 2012 Land Rover was allegedly used to transport the drugs, the state of Indiana seized it as property that had been involved in crime. The vehicle was worth approximately $42,000 -- four times the maximum fine the state could impose for the crime he committed. The trial judge and an appeals court ruled that the seizure violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "excessive fines."
If you can't afford to pay your Tennessee traffic ticket, the state may have threatened to take away your driver's license -- or it may already have done so. If so, you probably thought that license revocation was a strikingly counterproductive way of getting people to pay debts. After all, most people in Tennessee need to drive to and from work. No license means no work, making it even more difficult to pay off that speeding ticket.
In the 1963 case of Brady v. Maryland, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Constitution requires prosecutors to hand over to the defense any evidence that tends to prove the defendant's innocence. When they do not and the defendant is convicted, their failure or refusal to do so can result in a new trial.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you plead guilty in exchange for a plea bargain, what happens if the customary sentence changes? When guideline sentences are reduced, defendants are sometimes allowed to ask for the new, lower sentence. Is there a reason why people sentenced after plea bargains should be denied that right?
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.