5th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Fifth Circuit
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Federal criminal sentencing can often be bewildering to criminal defense attorneys, making pleading strategies more uncertain than usual.

For thefts involving government property, the Fifth Circuit simplified things a bit on Tuesday. In U.S. v. Lagrone, the court rejected the government's application of 18 U.S.C. Section 641, favoring an interpretation that is more lenient to defendants charged with multiple small thefts.

Why did the court decide to remand Lagrone's case for sentencing with only one felony count?

Texas is set to execute the 14th woman in the U.S. since the Supreme Court upheld state use of the death penalty in 1976.

After almost four decades of uninterrupted capital punishment in the Lone Star State, Suzanne Basso is scheduled to be put to death on Wednesday evening for horrible crimes she committed in 1998. The Associated Press reported that Basso's request for a stay of execution was denied by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court as Basso's final option for clemency.

What does this historic execution mean for a state which has literally put thousands to death?

A prisoner in a sex offender program in Texas has no right to his hot rod magazines, despite the prison's limiting policies on mail.

Shawn Stauffer, an inmate in Texas' Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP), had his 1983 claims smacked down by the Fifth Circuit on Friday seeking both a million dollars in monetary damages and injunctive relief.

So why did the court uphold the state's policies and deny Stauffer his car magazines?

It's a classic defense: The child porn on the computer wasn't mine, it belongs to my roommate ... or, or my girlfriend!

A jury didn't buy this line when James William Smith's counsel sold it in his criminal trial, but his conviction was overturned for lack of evidence. Then the Fifth Circuit overturned the lower court, affirming the jury's conviction.

How much is enough evidence to sustain child porn charges?

One of three men convicted of the "Angola 3" prison guard murder is getting a second chance for a retrial in his case before the Fifth Circuit.

A three-judge panel heard Albert Woodfox's case in oral arguments on January 7, urging the court to consider giving Woodfox a third trial for the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller, reports The Times-Picayune.

What's at stake in this 42-year-old case?

Burglary may be a common law concept, but when it comes to sentencing enhancements, there's plenty of case law on what constitutes "burglary" for federal sentencing.

The Fifth Circuit added to that line of cases in U.S. v. Guerrero-Navarro, affirming that Washington state's definition of burglary isn't overly inclusive for federal sentencing purposes.

What was Guerrero-Navarro's argument?

Tom DeLay may avoid prison for money laundering after all, especially after a ruling late last week by a Texas appellate court to overturn his conviction.

According to The Washington Post, the disgraced former U.S. House Majority Leader was "on [his] knees praying" at the National Prayer Center in D.C. when he received the news.

The saga of DeLay's criminal charges has lasted almost a decade since his indictment. Will this be its final chapter?

Wiretaps are not the legally preferred first tool of federal law enforcement, but federal law does allow applications for wiretapping in cases where it may be warranted.

On the other hand, the Fifth Circuit in U.S. v. North analyzed a situation in which the authorities did not apply for a wiretap in the correct court or use the proper safeguards to ensure protected conversations were not surveilled.

Turns out that little things like jurisdiction really do matter.

Warrantless stops can often be close cases to affirm or deny under Fourth Amendment scrutiny, and the Fifth Circuit's decision in U.S. v. Garza was no exception.

The Garza court considered the 2012 stop and arrest of Jose Eleazar Garza, who was stopped by a Border Patrol agent on the basis of a confidential informant's (CI) tip as well as suspicious elements around his truck.

How did the court come to uphold the stop?

The Fifth Circuit ruled that warrantless data requests by law enforcement from cell phone service providers are in general constitutional, or in other words, not categorically unconstitutional.

In the most recent federal word on this practice of requesting cell site data in order to zero in on the location of criminal suspects, the Fifth Circuit has determined that -- despite the statutory standard being lower than probable cause -- orders under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) for cell location data do not implicate the Fourth Amendment.