Criminal Law Decisions: Decided
Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

Recently in Criminal Law Category

For the first time in years, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the lethal injection method of execution is constitutional. The decision to hear the case comes shortly after one Oklahoma state prisoner out of four to file the case was already executed.

At least that won't happen to the other three petitioning prisoners: The High Court granted a stay of their executions until the justices make a ruling.

Does this spell the end of the death penalty? And what is "midazolam," anyway?

This has been a big year for landmark decisions and settlements, and FindLaw's Decided was there to cover all of 2014's big legal moments.

There were Supreme Court decisions and denials, companies settling over less than honest business practices, and even a reminder on how social media can screw up a perfectly good legal agreement.

Here's to 2014, and here's the Top 10 cases you loved most from this year:

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the use of traffic cameras by state municipalities as well as the administrative procedure for hearing appeals by those ticketed.

The ruling was split, with three of the court's seven justices dissenting, reports The Plain Dealer. And the decision comes as legislation requiring a police officer be present at every traffic camera was passed in the Ohio legislature last week. That bill would effectively end the use of the cameras in much of the state.

What led to the court's decision?

Police officers may stop a vehicle based on a misunderstanding of traffic laws without violating the civil rights, the Supreme Court has ruled.

In its 8-1 ruling on Monday, the High Court found that even though a North Carolina police officer misunderstood a state traffic law regarding brake lights, the mistake was reasonable, and thus the search that followed was not illegal. The driver, Nicholas B. Heien, consented to the search of his car following the stop, which yielded a baggie of cocaine.

So why did the Court rule for a search based on a good-faith mistake in Heien v. North Carolina?

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled on Monday that it was constitutional for private probation companies to monitor offenders but ruled it was illegal to extend sentences once imposed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the state's High Court found that private probation supervision companies like Sentinel Offender Services were allowed to supervise misdemeanor probationers, but they couldn't extend their sentences. This ruling may impact the $40 million in supervision fees private companies collect from low-level offenders.

What are the details of this Georgia Supreme Court ruling?

Police can force suspects to unlock their smartphones with a fingerprint, which is different than a passcode, according to a Virginia judge's recent ruling.

While the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that police officers may not search inside an arrestee's cell phone without a warrant, a Virginia state judge believes officers might be able to unlock it with a fingerprint. Judge Steven C. Frucci ruled that while a suspect may not be compelled to give up his or her secret code, a fingerprint is a completely different story.

Does this ruling spell ruin for fingerprint technology protecting cell phone privacy?

Ohio OVI suspects got a win from the state's Supreme Court this week when justices affirmed that alcohol breath-test evidence could be thrown out if the state doesn't give the defendant certain data about the breath-testing device itself.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a court could exclude breath-test evidence from a drunken driving case (which Ohio calls "operating a vehicle under the influence," or OVI) if prosecutors failed to provide the defendant with data on the functionality and reliability of the device used in the case. In the case at hand, the device was called the Intoxilyzer 8000, and the Court agreed that defendant had the right to know if the particular device was reliable.

What can future OVI suspects learn from this case?

A federal district judge has ruled that California's death penalty system is unconstitutional, ironically because Death Row takes too long.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney determined in Jones v. Chappell that the massive delays in the Golden State's administration of the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Reuters reports that since 1978, only 13 convicts have been executed in California, while more than 900 were sentenced to death.

Is waiting too long for the death penalty in California really unconstitutional?

Michigan's convicts serving life sentences for crimes committed as juveniles won't be getting resentenced or a chance for parole after a Michigan Supreme Court ruling on Monday.

The state's highest court determined in a 4-3 decision that more than 350 juvenile "lifers" who are serving sentences related to killings committed at age 17 and younger should not be retroactively resentenced, reports MLive.com. This case was in response to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held it was unconstitutional to generally punish teens to life without the possibility of parole.

Why were these juvenile lifers denied a chance at parole?

The U.S. Supreme Court released two impactful opinions on Wednesday, potentially changing how the nation treats streaming broadcast TV and warrantless cell-phone searches by police.

In American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo, the High Court determined that an online streaming service which allowed users to watch over-the-air broadcast TV on their computers and mobile devices violated copyright law. Meantime, mobile users have been given a bit more protection under Riley v. California, holding that police may not generally search a cell phone after arrest without a warrant.

Let's break down both Supreme Court cases.