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."
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.
Keith Tharpe, an African-American, was convicted of a terrible crime. In 1990, a Georgia jury said he had ambushed his wife and sister-in-law while they were driving to work. He murdered the sister-in-law and then kidnapped and raped his wife. The sister-in-law's body was later discovered in a ditch by her own husband.
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.
A conviction can be appealed on a number of grounds. One way of looking at it is that convictions (and civil cases) can be appealed based on an error of the law or an error in the facts. In some cases, factual errors are hard to gauge, as a reasonable jury might have decided the facts either way. In others, however, a factual error is a straightforward mistake, such as a mistake in math or a wrong date. This is called "plain error."
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.
A South Korean immigrant will not be deported after pleading guilty to a drug crime after being badly advised by his criminal defense attorney. This is an interesting development, because it involves a guilty plea. If he had tried to get the plea itself reversed, he likely would not have succeeded. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the negative immigration consequences can be averted in such a circumstance.
If a jury convicts someone and the court later learns that one juror's vote was based entirely on racial animus, should the conviction be overturned? Traditionally, the answer has been no. Appellate courts have long held that what happens in the jury room, for the most part, stays in the jury room.