Legal Blog


A Closer Look at First Step Act Changes to 851 Enhancements

The First Step Act is a criminal justice reform bill that has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. It has been endorsed by President Trump.

The bill covers lots of subjects but one important one is changes to enhancements for repeat drug offenders. Defense lawyers and federal prosecutors often refer to these as “851 enhancements” after the code section that sets forth the procedures for imposing them.

As the law stands now a defendant convicted of a 10 year minimum federal drug offense with at least one felony drug prior can have his … Read More »



FAQ – Obtaining Exculpatory Evidence From The Prosecution in Criminal Cases

What is exculpatory evidence?

The United States Supreme Court has held that exculpatory evidence is any evidence that is favorable to the defendant on issues of guilt or punishment. Exculpatory evidence is also sometimes called “Bradyevidence” or “Bradymaterial,” a name that comes from the Court’s decision in Brady v. Maryland.

Does the defendant have a right to exculpatory evidence from the prosecution?

Under Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors have a duty to hand over exculpatory evidence to the defendant. This duty exists even without any request from the defendant. However, a specific request for exculpatory evidence can be beneficial for a … Read More »



City of Hays v. Vogt: Does the Fifth Amendment’s Privilege Against Self-Incrimination Apply to Preliminary Hearings?

The Fifth Amendment’s Self Incrimination clause prohibits the use of a defendant’s compelled statements at trial. Does this prohibition also apply at the preliminary hearing? That is the question the Supreme Court sought to answer in City of Hays v. Vogt.

Background on City of Hays v. Vogt

In City of Hays v. Vogt, Vogt, a police officer, was offered a job with the City of Haysville on the condition that he submit a written statement about possible misconduct at his previous job. Vogt complied, and was criminally charged in state court. At the probable cause hearing, the prosecutor introduced … Read More »



Obtaining Favorable Evidence From The Prosecution: Understanding the Brady Rule

Criminal cases in the United States follow, for the most part, an adversarial model. This means that each side bears primary responsibility for finding and presenting evidence supporting its arguments, while a neutral arbiter—such as a judge or a jury, decides between those competing versions of facts (or law). An important exception to this adversarial model is the Brady rule, named after the Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland. In this blog post, we will explain what the Brady rule is, how it functions, and some important limitations on the Brady rule that make the rule less powerful than it … Read More »



Internal Investigations of Government Employees: Garrity and Kalkines Warnings

If you work for a federal or a state agency, you may have heard of the terms “Garrity warning” and “Kalkines warning” thrown around at the workplace. These warnings are issued when the agency is conducting an internal investigation, and there is a possibility of criminal charges being filed. If you are a federal or state government employee, it may be worth your time to fully understand what these warnings mean.

Many people have heard of “Miranda warnings,” and may know that it is a warning issued by police officers to arrested individuals to inform them of their rights. The … Read More »



In Sessions v. Dimaya, a divided Supreme Court considers the meaning of “crime of violence.”

Last year, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Dimaya v. Lynch, which we covered in a previous blog post. To recap, Dimaya asked whether one part of the statutory definition of a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 16(b) was unconstitutionally vague, in light of the Supreme Court’s earlier Johnson decision striking down a similar definition for “violent felony” in the Armed Career Criminal Act. Although the Dimaya case arose in the immigration context, its outcome has important practical implications for criminal defense practitioners because many federal statutes and rules either directly incorporate § 16(b)’s definition of a … Read More »



Can I be sentenced for a crime I am found not guilty of?

Imagine the following scenario: you have been charged in a multi-count indictment with several interrelated crimes—one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of structuring. The jury acquitted you of the more serious crime of wire fraud conspiracy, but convicted you of structuring. A good outcome, right? The answer may actually surprise you, as your ultimate sentence can end up being just as high as if you have been convicted of both crimes.

As explained in our federal sentencing page, sentences for federal convictions are decided by the judge, who is required by law to consider a … Read More »



Frequently Asked Questions about Federal Money Laundering Offenses

 

What is money laundering?

Although many people think of money laundering as simply the process of executing a series of convoluted financial transactions to conceal the origin of funds obtained from criminal activity, the federal criminal money laundering statutes, cover a far broader range of conduct involving criminally derived property.

Federal criminal money laundering offenses are codified under 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and § 1957. § 1956 is the more serious and commonly charged of the two, and carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years. § 1957, by contrast, carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years. In … Read More »



Understanding Career Offender Status in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

We recently published a new page addressing the career offender status in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.



Lynch v. Dimaya, Where The Johnson Court Is Headed, And How It May Get There

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Lynch v. Dimaya, a case challenging the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 16(b), which defines the term “crime of violence.” As a firm, we frequently encounter these issues in our practice, and as a result have been closely following the Dimaya case. You can read our post: “Violent Felony” And “Crime of Violence”: What Johnson v. United States Can Mean For Other Federal Criminal Statutes Involving Violent Crimes for a general overview of the kinds of issues that Dimaya involves.

What happened in Lynch v. Dimaya?

Dimaya was an alien who … Read More »