August, 2021

Tenth Circuit: District Court Erred When It Denied Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Where Impoundment of Vehicle Was Pretextual

Defendant was convicted of drug charges after the district court denied his motion to suppress evidence discovered after his car was impounded. Defendant was arrested based on a tip in a convenience store parking lot. The Tenth Circuit reversed holding that the police officers used their department’s standardized impoundment policy as a pretext to impound defendant’s car and search for evidence of a crime. The Court noted that the car was on private property, the officers did not consult the property owner, the officers could have let defendant call someone to move the car, the officer did not impound the car based on concerns over insurance or ownership, the officers did not impound the car based on defendant’s lack of a driver’s license, the car was not impounded as evidence of a crime, no consent existed for impoundment, and the officers’ comments and actions showed pretext. United States v. Woodard, ___ F.4th ___ (07-26-2021, WL 3152718).

First Circuit: District Court Did Not Err When It Granted Both Defendants a New Trial Based on the Ineffectiveness of One of the Defendant’s Counsel

In these consolidated cases, defendants were convicted of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Travel Act, and the Money Laundering Act. The district judge found that the cumulative effect of Baptiste’s counsel’s deficiencies prejudiced both defendants and the government appealed. The parties agreed that counsel was deficient, and the First Circuit held that a judge can grant a new trial under Rule 33 to prevent “a miscarriage of justice” even if there is sufficient evidence to convict and that it was proper to presume that the trial judge considered the totality of the evidence as required. The Court held that the cumulative-error doctrine requires the vacation of a defendant’s conviction even though the same compendium of errors, considered one by one, would not justify such relief. Lastly, the Court found that the trial judge did not abuse her discretion when she held that deficiencies in the conduct of Baptiste’s trial counsel necessarily affected the jury’s view of both defendants in this joint trial, thereby depriving defendant Boncy of a fair trial in violation of his due process rights. United States v. Baptiste, ___ F.4th ___ (08-09-2021, WL 3486178).

New Jersey: Defendants Had Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in Stationhouse Phone Conversation Absent Fair Notice of Monitoring or Recording

Defendant was charged with firearms offenses based, in part, on the contents of a phone conversation he had with his co-defendant from one of the police station’s landlines where defendant was not told that his conversation would be recorded or accessible to law enforcement without his consent or a warrant. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that defendants had a reasonable expectation of privacy in their conversation in the absence of fair notice that their conversation would be monitored or recorded. Because the recorded stationhouse telephone conversation was not seized pursuant to a warrant, consent, or any justifiable exigency, it should have been suppressed. New Jersey v. McQueen, ___ A.3d ___ (08-10-2021, WL 3502000).