Gilmer & Giglio


Posts tagged federal criminal defense
United States Supreme Court reverses conviction in Curtis Flowers' Sixth Trial for Murder

On Friday, June 21, 2019, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling reversing the conviction of Curtis Flowers for First Degree Murder after his sixth trial. Four of Flowers’ previous trials had been overturned for prosecutorial misconduct in jury selection and the fifth ended in a mistrial. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the prosecution’s systematic removal of black potential jurors from the jury was a violation of the Court’s precedent in Batson v. Kentucky. Flowers’ case was the subject of much public and media scrutiny over the past year due to its being featured in the second season of the podcast “In The Dark.”

Scotusblog has a good write-up of the opinion issued by Justice Brett Kavanaugh:

“The State’s relentless, determined effort,” Kavanaugh concluded, “to rid the jury of black individuals strongly suggests that the State wanted to try Flowers before a jury with as few black jurors as possible, and ideally before an all-white jury.” Such a history, Kavanaugh stressed, cannot be ignored when considering Evans’ intent going into Flowers’ sixth trial.

Justice Kavanaugh’s full opinion and those of the two dissenting Justices, Thomas & Gorsuch, can be read here.

Podcast Recommendation: Annotated - Books Behind Bars, Part I

The Annotated Podcast by BookRiot is one of my favorites because it covers all kinds of topics about books (and makes book recommendations), but this particular podcast is all about something that is also relevant to our work.

The May 7th episode discusses organizations that provide used books to inmates in prisons across the country and some jurisdictions’ attempts to restrict inmates’ access to used books.

The FBI has a new fitness app, but you should think twice before downloading

Many of us have fitness apps loaded on our phones: Nike+, Apple’s Health App, Zombies, Run!, and the list goes on and on, but there’s a new option now available from the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

The FBI Physical Fitness Test App is now available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store

The FBI markets this app as a way to “learn what it’s like to train as an agent.”

The problem, as we criminal defense lawyers see it? This app tracks your location, as most fitness tracker apps do, so it can log mileage for walks or runs, for example; however, if law enforcement wants that information from your average fitness tracker app, they are going to have to go to that company and ask nicely (most companies will say no as they have determined that the cost of providing their customers’ data to the government is much more expensive than the pain of not acquiescing to the government’s requests), or they have to go to court and get a search warrant ordering that company to provide them the records. And in order to get a search warrant, they must demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that they have probable cause to believe evidence of a crime will be located in the information they want that company to disclose.

This app? Gives them access to your location data without any type of court order or supervision.

This app requests your phone provide your precise and approximate location, that it have permission to read the contents of your USB storage, and have full network access, prevent your phone from sleeping, and read your Google service configuration.

There may be nothing harmful, here, but there are so many non-governmental fitness tracker apps, we wouldn't use one that willingly gives information on our every move to the government. Be thoughtful about the apps you install on your phone and think hard before you willingly become a witness against yourself.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges and your location data is being used against you, give us a call at (318) 459-9111 to set up a consult.

Supreme Court deals a blow to civil asset forfeiture

Remember way back in December when we talked about civil asset forfeiture? Well, on February 20, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Timbs v. Indiana that could change a lot of that.

In that case, Tyson Timbs pleaded guilty to a drug and theft charge in state court. The maximum monetary penalty for those offenses was $10,000. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement had seized a Land Rover that Timbs had purchased for $42,000 using proceeds from his father’s life insurance. Law enforcement alleged that Timbs had used the vehicle to transport heroin, justifying their seizure of the vehicle. After litigation in the state courts over the forfeiture of a vehicle valued at over four times the potential penalty for his drug offense, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

The USSC ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s protections against excessive fines apply to the states under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and, in keeping with its prior ruling in Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602, held that these types of forfeitures fall within the protections of the clauses cited above when they are at least partially punitive.

This ruling strikes a blow against civil forfeitures by state law enforcement agencies across the country. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges and the government is also attempting to seize their assets, give us a call at (318) 459-9111 to set up a consult.

State Court v. Federal Court

Common Questions regarding State Court and Federal Court:

  1. Is there a difference between State Court and Federal Court?

    Yes, several. State courts have only the authority to handle crimes which are prohibited by their state laws. And only those crimes which occurred within their states and the smaller district divisions of the courts.

    For example, the First Judicial District Court in Caddo Parish can only handle cases where the crimes were committed in the State of Louisiana, and particularly only in the First Judicial District which encompasses the Parish of Caddo. State courts have no authority to handle federal crimes.

    Federal courts have jurisdiction to handle only violations of federal law and federal laws, because of some specific constitutional requirements, have limited jurisdiction over criminal acts that occurred in more than one state (i.e. drug trafficking across state lines) or which involve interstate commerce (i.e. wire fraud).

    This is why some offenses which are crimes under state law are not crimes under federal law and why there are often additional interstate requirements for prosecutions in federal court.

  2. I have been charged with a drug offense in a Louisiana District Court, can I be charged with a crime in Federal court?

    That depends. If the drugs were transported across state lines, yes, if the drugs you are charged with possessing are illegal to possess under both state and federal law (currently, most of them are, although some states marijuana laws differ from federal law). 

  3. If I’ve been convicted or acquitted of a crime in state court that is also a crime in federal court, doesn’t double jeopardy mean the federal court can’t prosecute me

    No. The double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states (in part): “…nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…”

    However, because our system of government is one of dual sovereignty, we are citizens of the United States of America and also our State of residence. Each sovereign, the United States and the State of Louisiana, has the authority to prosecute the crimes committed within their jurisdiction, without being subject to double jeopardy restrictions for the actions of the other.

    This means that if you are tried for a drug offense in state court and found not guilty, the State cannot retry your case for another shot, but the federal court which has jurisdiction over that case can then prosecute you in the event that the circumstances of your arrest were in violation of a federal crime.

If you or someone you know is facing prosecution in state or federal court and you would like your questions answered, please call us to set up a consult: (318) 459-9111.