FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Recently in Supreme Court Rulings Category

Generally speaking, jury deliberations are considered a "black box," into which courts are loathe to peer. The sanctity and secrecy of the jury room predates the Constitution itself, and courts have refused to review jury verdicts even in the face of claims of juror bias or drug or alcohol abuse in order to foster "full and vigorous discussion" of the case at hand.

But racist remarks, according to a new ruling from the Supreme Court, may violate a defendant's right to a fair trial and therefore require judicial review. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, "A constitutional rule that racial bias in the justice system must be addressed -- including, in some instances, after the verdict has been entered -- is necessary to prevent a systemic loss of confidence in jury verdicts."

Last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a BB gun does not count as a firearm when it comes to a felon-in-possession charge. David Haywood, who was convicted of a felony in 2005, was convicted three years ago for possession of a firearm and sentenced to the mandatory minimum 5 year sentence. Now, his conviction is overturned.

Most states restrict the rights of individuals who have been convicted of a felony when it comes to gun ownership. The ruling by Minnesota's highest court will indeed change the landscape of gun ownership for felons, but only in Minnesota, and only until the legislature responds.

Just as the Second Amendment doesn't guarantee you the right to have arms made out of actual, live bears (thanks, framers of the Constitution), it also doesn't guarantee you the right to any type of weaponry. Generally speaking, state gun control laws can restrict the types of firearms citizens may own.

A recent case in Massachusetts may stretch the limits of state gun restrictions, specifically whether the right to bear arms extends to Tasers and stun guns.

Supreme Ct.'s 'Mistake of Law' Traffic Stop Ruling: 5 Things to Know

As the dust settles on the Supreme Court's ruling in Heien v. North Carolina, privacy and civil rights advocates are worried about how "mistakes of law" could allow officers to abuse suspects.

The Washington Post reports that although the basic reasoning of the case is simple, "it leaves some complications." The basic ruling: Officers can have reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle based on a reasonably mistaken view of the law.

As for the complications, here are five things to know about the Supreme Court's "mistake of law" ruling:

Rap Lyrics Rejected as Evidence in N.J. Shooting Case

A New Jersey defendant was granted a new trial after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that gangster rap lyrics found in his car cannot be used as evidence to help prove motive for attempted murder.

Vonte Skinner was convicted of shooting and paralyzing a drug dealer in 2005 based on rap lyrics that officers had found in Skinner's car -- lyrics which were read to the jury during his trial. The Star-Ledger reports that New Jersey's High Court decided unanimously that the fictional exploits described in Skinner's rap lyrics should not have been introduced as evidence of Skinner's guilt.

Is this a win for rap lyricists over prosecutors?

Supreme Court on Cell-Phone Searches: 3 Things You Should Know

The U.S. Supreme Court laid down the law on warrantless cell-phone searches today, giving mobile users slightly more privacy when arrested.

The High Court unanimously held that warrantless cell-phone searches upon arrest are generally not permitted, recognizing how important our phones have become in our everyday lives. As USA Today reports, Chief Justice John Roberts opined that cell phones are so integral to daily life that Martians "might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy."

Essential or not, here are three things you should know about the Supreme Court's ruling on warrantless cell-phone searches:

Supreme Ct. Debates Cell-Phone Searches Upon Arrest

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether cell phones can be searched upon arrest, potentially ending a pivotal legal disagreement in federal and state courts.

Two cases are before the High Court today: one in which a cell phone searche following arrest was upheld, and one in which a warrantless cell phone searches was deemed improper. Opponents of these warrantless cell phone searches argue there is no danger to officer safety or risk of losing evidence when a cell phone is seized, so officers should simply obtain a warrant to search them, reports The Associated Press.

Which way will the Supreme Court lean?

Supreme Ct. on Child Porn Restitution: 5 Key Facts

The U.S. Supreme Court determined Wednesday that child porn victims cannot collect restitution for their total losses from a single child porn possessor, but offenders do have to pay something.

In a 5-4 decision, the High Court determined that "Amy," a woman whose explicit child photos are among the "most popular" for traffickers in child pornography, could not recover $3.4 million for her total losses from one man who possessed two child-porn images of her, reports USA Today.

Victims of child porn, however, are still owed restitution under the law, the Court explained. Here are five key facts to help you understand the Supreme Court's position:

Warrantless Home Search OK If 1 Occupant Consents: Sup. Ct.

Police can search a shared home without a warrant as long as an occupant who is present consents to the search, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a 6-3 decision, the High Court affirmed that police don't need the permission of all occupants in a shared residence, as long as officers have the agreement of at least one resident who is physically present, The Associated Press reports.

Does this ruling in Fernandez v. California erode the protection against warrantless searches offered by the Fourth Amendment?

N.J. Court: Cell Phone Data Tracking Needs Warrant

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement cannot obtain cell phone tracking information from wireless providers without a warrant.

In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, New Jersey's highest court demanded that police have a search warrant to procure sensitive cell phone data that will allow law enforcement to track an individual, reports The New York Times.

This decision is a slight change in tune from other federal rulings regarding cell phone data, but it might be a sign of a turning tide for privacy.