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Comments on Petitioner’s Opening Supreme Court Brief in Van Buren v. United States

We have previously covered the SCOTUS’s interesting decision to grant certiorari in Van Buren v. United States – a criminal case where the petitioner has appealed his conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

The case is potentially significant because the lower court’s interpretation of the CFAA, defended by the government on appeal, would criminalize large swaths of seemingly innocuous computer use. For example, a SCOTUS decision for the government could mean that your yearly March Madness office pool is now a criminal conspiracy.

On July 1, the petitioner submitted his opening brief which lays out his arguments … Read More »



Could I Be Prosecuted for Using Facebook at Work? Supreme Court to Decide.

In April 2020, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Van Buren v. United States. This case raises questions about what constitutes criminal “computer misuse” under 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a). The petitioner, Mr. Van Buren, was convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a) after accepting a loan in exchange for personal records obtained through a police database. As a police officer, Mr. Van Buren had permission to access the database for work related purposes. In his petition for certiorari, he argues that because he had permission to use the database, his misuse did not rise to a criminal level. The question for … 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 »



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 »



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 »



“Violent Felony” And “Crime of Violence”: What Johnson v. United States Can Mean For Other Federal Criminal Statutes Involving Violent Crimes

In 2015, the Supreme Court decided Johnson v. United States. The decision struck down part of the federal Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (“ACCA”), which defined a legal term: “violent felony,” used for some federal crimes. As noted in a recent article from the Washington Post, hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners can expect to have their prison sentences reduced as a result of Johnson.

Johnson’s impact, however, does not stop at the individuals directly sentenced under ACCA. The Supreme Court’s rationale in Johnson may be applicable to many other federal criminal statutes, including laws defining a similar term: … Read More »



Thoughts on the Fourth Circuit’s Ruling in the McDonnell Case

For a while things were going well for former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s appeal of his convictions for corruption related offenses. The Court allowed him to remain out of custody while the appeal was pending and the panel who heard his case – Judges Motz, King, and Thacker – was pretty favorable by Fourth Circuit standards.

But the Court ruled against him on every issue. In a published decision issued last Friday.

The media has (appropriately) given most of its attention to the Fourth Circuit’s decision to uphold the relatively broad definition of “official act” given to the jury by … Read More »