Criminal Law Decisions: Decided

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The real makers of the popular energy supplement 5-Hour Energy, Living Essential, were pleased this week when a California jury found two individuals guilty of manufacturing counterfeit 5-Hour Energy drinks. The federal charges allege that the criminal drink makers produced millions of counterfeit bottles using unknown ingredients in an unsanitary facility. The couple could face over a decade in jail and $2 million in fines. Their conviction comes after the resolution of the consolidated civil suit earlier this year against more than 20 individuals, all involved in a conspiracy to make and sell fake 5-Hour Energy shots.

The convicted Southern California couple initially had a legitimate deal with Living Essential to distribute 5-Hour Energy drinks in Mexico. However, the initial deal provided the couple with Spanish labeled bottles which they relabeled and then sold in the US below the US market rate. The following year, the couple set up the manufacturing scheme to make the counterfeit drinks.

In an interesting twist in the 2014 case filed against two Tucson officers for wrongful arrest, an appeals court has upheld the officers' arrest of a man who refused to show the officers his driver's license. A district court had initially ruled that the suit could continue. However, on appeal, the court determined the officers are immune from liability as the arrest was based on probable cause.

What happened in this case is rather complex, and whether this result will be appealed is still undetermined.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire re-affirmed the state's rape shield laws and overturned their own decision. The 2014 conviction for the 2012 sexual assault and murder of Lizzi Marriot was appealed, and as part of the appeal, the attorneys for the appellant wanted to include part of the record that had been sealed as it related to Ms. Marriot's sexual history.

Initially, the court granted the defendant's motion to unseal the records for use on appeal, which would put them into the public record. However, after victim's advocates voiced their concerns over what that ruling would mean, and the attorney general's office appealed that ruling, the court actually reversed their own ruling.

For 41 days in January and February, armed militants seized and occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. The occupation became a news-cycle and social media circus, as the occupiers broadcasted video from inside the refuge and made no secret about their goals. As one of the occupier's attorneys told the Los Angeles Times, "His point in this case was to be convicted. His point was to go to the Court of Appeals and make legal arguments about the United States' ability to own land .The notion of being acquitted never entered his mind."

But that plan hit a bit of a snag last Thursday when seven of the occupiers, including infamous ringleaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were acquitted on conspiracy and weapons charges. So how did they get off, after admitted to the crimes and wanting to be convicted?

The Santa Ana police department recently settled the lawsuit against it alleging that their officers stole product during a marijuana dispensary raid. A secret camera that officers were unaware of caught officers eating marijuana-laced treats that were for sale in the dispensary. Additionally, the video footage captured an officer mocking a disabled woman in a wheelchair.

While the officers who were caught misbehaving have been fired, the department clearly felt compelled to settle the lawsuit as the six-figure settlement implies. Whether or not the lawsuit's larger allegations of corruption were, or could be, substantiated, may never be found out due to the settlement.

While Osama bin Laden is dead, his media secretary, Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, who made propaganda videos, as well as filmed the wills for 9/11 hijackers, just had his 2008 conviction upheld in the DC Appeals Court. Although he had been detained in Guantanamo Bay, then tried and convicted in a military court for conspiracy years ago, his attorney is still fighting the conviction.

Although it is not disputed that the media secretary helped Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, what is disputed is the propriety of the conspiracy charge brought against him. The media secretary was convicted of conspiracy, which technically is not a war crime, which arguably means that the enemy combatant should have been tried in a regular federal court rather than by a military court. The DC Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the conviction.

For anyone watching 'Making a Murder,' from seasoned attorneys to your average layperson, it was fairly obvious what happened to Brendan Dassey, nephew of the documentary's subject Steven Avery. An impressionable and possibly mentally impaired teen was hauled into a police station and bolstered, berated, and badgered in turns until he confessed to a gruesome murder. (This followed similar treatment from his own attorney.) And it was also apparent to viewers, as it must have been to the officers interviewing him, that Dassey's confession failed to match the facts of the case.

Today, a federal judge agreed, saying that Dassey's constitutional rights had been violated by both his attorney and police investigators, overturned his conviction, and ordered him to be released, ten years after his conviction.

Delaware's highest court ruled that the state's death penalty statute is unconstitutional, which could signal the end of capital punishment in the state. The decision, based on the Supreme Court's invalidation of Florida's death penalty law, held that judges were given too great a role in imposing death sentences.

While Delaware could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court or re-write the statute to comply with constitutional requirements, the state legislature's push to abolish capital punishment could be an indicator that the ruling will stand. Here's what the court said.

In a reminder that state statutes can be woefully behind the times when it comes to technology and crime, a Georgia appeals court overturned a man's conviction for surreptitiously taking cell phone video underneath a woman's skirt without her consent. The practice, known as "upskirting," is disgusting, odious, and morally reprehensible, but, as the court in this case pointed out, not technically illegal under some current state statutes.

So how was the man convicted in the first place? And how did he ultimately end up going free? Here's a look at Georgia's privacy law and what the court said.

Supreme Court Shifts Perspective on Illegal Police Stops

It used to be that if a police stop was unreasonable, evidence found after that illegal stop was excluded from a case when successfully challenged in court. This week, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that evidence from an unreasonable stop can be retroactively validated by a pre-existing warrant.

The ruling seems confusing and of little consequence to many. However, it's actually a big deal because millions of people have outstanding warrants for small infractions. Also, the decision shifts the angle on time and evidence in criminal cases. In the words of one dissenter, "Do not be soothed by the technical language." Let's consider the opinions -- majority and dissent -- and why this case is significant.