Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from March, 2011

Writ of Mandamus issues when District Court refuses to instruct jury on all elements of charged offense.

While reiterating its general rule that mandamus is “a drastic remedy that is seldom issued and its use is discouraged,” the Third Circuit nevertheless found “the kind of extraordinary situation in which we are empowered to issue the writ of mandamus,” in United States v. Higden, No. 10-3882 (March 17, 2011).Defendant was tried for violating 18 U.S.C.§ 922 (g)(1), which has three elements: (1) that defendant possessed a firearm; 2) that defendant was a convicted felon; and 3) that the firearm had traveled in interstate commerce. Before trial, Defendant and the Government stipulated that Defendant had satisfied the last two of those three elements, and that the jury should be informed of that stipulation. The District Court refused to permit the Government to mention the stipulation during voir dire, and instructed the jury without mentioning either the convicted felony or interstate commerce elements of the charge. Similarly, at trial, despite several requests by the AUSA, the Distric…

Borrower of rental car generally lacks expectation of privacy in that rental car.

In United States v. Kennedy, No. 09-1980 (March 16, 2011), the Third Circuit affirmed the denial of a suppression motion by a driver of a rental car that was not rented in his name. Police had arrested defendant Kennedy on an outstanding warrant, and searching a nearby rental car that he had borrowed from his girlfriend – the authorized driver – police found guns and drugs inside the car. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence found in the car, asserting a legitimate expectation of privacy in its contents. The District Court denied the motion. After a two-day trial, the jury found Kennedy guilty on three counts of drug and firearms charges. The District Court sentenced him to 300 months in prison.On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed. Surveying decisions in the Circuits, theCourt observed that while there may be agreement that an authorized driver on the rental agreement will generally have an expectation of privacy “due to his possessory and property interest in the vehicle,” the C…

Court rejects Second Amendment challenges to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)

Defendant James Barton entered a conditional guilty plea to two counts of being a felon-in-possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), reserving the right to argue on appeal that those convictions violated his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The Third Circuit rejected Barton's challenges, holding that § 922(g)(1) was constitutional both on its face and as applied to Barton. SeeUnited States v. Barton, No. 09-2211 (3d Cir. March 4, 2011).

With respect to Barton's facial challenge, the Third Circuit concluded that it was bound by the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), to reject that challenge. The Heller Court found that the individual right to keep and bear arms, while fundamental, was not unlimited, id. at 626, and certain "longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms" are "presumptively lawful." id. at 626-27 n. 26. This includes a prohibition on th…

Search warrant affidavit sufficient to establish probable cause in child pornography case despite deficiencies

In United States v. Miknevich, 09-3059 (March 1, 2011), the Third Circuit was asked to determine whether an affidavit prepared by a law enforcement officer in child pornography case supported the district court's finding of probable cause. Defendant was charged with possession of child pornography after police executed a search warrant at his home and seized his computer. He entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to challenge the district court's probable cause determination on appeal. In challenging the sufficiency of the affidavit, the defendant noted the following deficiencies: (1) the affidavit did not indicate that any investigating officer actually downloaded the suspect video file, (2) the affidavit did not indicate that anyone, including any other officers or the magistrate judge, ever actually viewed the suspect file, and (3) the affidavit contained no description of the suspected images or actions in the file.

While the Third Circuit agreed that parts …