Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dumont: SORNA criminalizes failure to register, not interstate travel

In U.S. v. Dumont, No. 08-11187 (Jan 26, 2009), the Court upheld a conviction for failing to register as a sex offender, as required by 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a) of SORNA.
On February 28, 2007, the Attorney General issued a rule stating that SORNA’s registration requirements applied retroactively. This required persons who had traveled in interstate commerce to update their registration. Dumont claimed that this registration requirement did not apply to him because he had traveled two weeks before the Attorney General made SORNA’s registration requirement retroactive.
The Court distinguished U.S. v. Madera, because that case involved a failure to register before the Attorney General’s retroactive rule. Here, Dumont was prosecuted for failing to register after the Attorney General issued his rule. The Court rejected Dumont’s argument that the law should not apply to him because his travel, which triggered the registration requirement, occurred before the Attorney General issued his rule. The statute does not criminalize travel. It criminalizes failure to register.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Magwood: AEPDA Bars Claim In 2nd Petition That Could Have Been Raised In First

In Magwood v. Culliver, No. 07-12208 (Jan. 23, 2009), the Court denied habeas relief to an Alabama inmate sentenced to death for a 1979 murder of a Sheriff.
Magwood claimed that at his Alabama resentencing, the retroactive application of an Alabama Supreme Court precedent interpreting its death penalty statute violated Due Process. The Court, however, found that the AEDPA barred Magwood from raising this claim in a "second or successive" habeas petition, because Magwood could have raised this claim in his first petition.
The Court also rejected Magwood’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim for failing to challenge the application of the Alabama Supreme Court precedent at his resentencing. At the time of the resentencing, the caselaw was adverse to Magwood, and it was not ineffective for counsel to fail to challenge the validity of this state caselaw.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bennett: Lifting Mattress Not Unreasonable Search

In U.S. v. Bennett, No. 08-12352 (Jan. 21, 2009), the Court held that no Fourth Amendment violation occurred when police searched under a mattress at a suspect’s mother apartment.
The Court noted that, in the circumstances – e.g., Bennett had delivered a rent check to the landlord – the police reasonably believed that Bennett resided in his mother’s apartment.
Though recognizing it was a close question, the Court concluded that the police search under the mattress was not an unreasonable of the "grab area" of a suspect. Two teenagers were in the room, and police reasonably suspected that they were potentially dangerous because one might have been Bennett, a person known to be dangerous. The police had ordered the two teenagers, handcuffed, to sit on the bed in order to question them. Before questioning, the police shook the sheets and lifted the mattress in order to secure the area. "Although it may have been difficult to [grab the firearm under the mattress] while handcuffed, it is not impossible that the boys could have reached under the mattress for a weapon." The Court noted that precedent allowed police to reach beneath a mattress. "If there is a reason to search the edge of a mattress by touch, there is reason enough to lift it up."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dodge: SORNA registration not required for emailing obscene materials

In U.S. v. Dodge, No. 08-10802 (Jan. 14, 2009) (2-1, Wilson, J., dissenting), the Court held that SORNA’s sex offender registration requirement did not apply to a defendant convicted of transferring obscene material to a minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1470, because this offense did not constitute a "sex offense against a minor" under 42 U.S.C. § 16911(7)(I).
The Court noted that any definition of "against" requires a concept of contact or opposition. Here, Dodge emailed obscene images of himself to individuals he took to be minors. This conduct lacked any element of unwanted sexual assault. Unlike a "flasher" there was no invasion of private space.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Betancourth: Subject Matter Jurisdiction Can't be Waived by Guilty Plea

In U.S. v. Betancourth, No. 07-14710 (Jan. 13, 2009), the Court held that a defendant cannot waive, by pleading guilty, an objection to the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Law, 46 U.S.C. § 70501. However, the Court held that under the facts presented – certifications from the United States Department of State stating that the government of Ecuador had waived objection to the enforcement of United States law against the apprehended vessels – jurisdiction existed.

Dorsey: No Impermissible 5K1.1 refusal

In U.S. v. Dorsey, No. 06-16698 (Jan. 9, 2009), the Court, upon sua sponte reconsideration of its prior decision, vacated its prior opinion and substituted another, finding that there was sufficient corroborating information in affidavits supporting search warrants, and holding that the government did not unconstitutionally punish Dorsey when it refused to file a motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to 5K1.1 when he decided to trial on the charged drug trafficking offenses.
The Court pointed out that the government’s offer of a 5K1.1 substantial assistance motion was conditioned on Dorsey’s entry of a guilty plea. The offer was made in the context of a plea negotiation. Accordingly, the government’s subsequent refusal to file a 5K1.1 motion when Dorsey did not plead guilty was constitutionally permissible. In addition, the Court noted that Dorsey was aware that the government did not consider his prior assistance sufficient to warrant a 5K1.1 motion.