9th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Ninth Circuit
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9th Circuit OKs Medical Weed Against DOJ

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit has unanimously found in favor medical marijuana users by declaring that DOJ prosecutions of users is forbidden under Consolidated Appropriations Act sec. 542.

In plain English, the Ninth Circuit said: "DOJ, stop wasting money going after otherwise state-law observant medical pot users."

Sharing Your Password Is a Federal Crime, 9th Circuit Rules

The final decision from the Ninth Circuit case of United States v Nosal II has finally been filed and should make casual users of this thing we call the internet a little nervous. Nosal II involved accusations that a former employee who'd used other current employees' password information to access company information had violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Sounds harmless enough and even intuitive. That is, until you listen to the judge's language. This has all the eerie import of Matish III.

This ruling has petition written all over it. In the short term, we doubt this means that anyone within the Ninth Circuit will have to worry about sharing their email passwords with their friends. But the faintest hint of precedent is enough to send a chill down our spines.

9th Cir: 2nd Amendment Also Means "Right to Buy Arms"

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals took on an eyebrow-raising tone recently when it endorsed a pro-gun advocate notion that a "right to buy arms" is implied within the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.

The decision is a major blow to Alameda County's attempts to limit gun sales and the location of gun stores. It's a page flipper, for sure.

When a person's competency to stand trial for a crime is in question in Washington State, state law requires the state Department of Social and Health Services to evaluate them within seven to 21 days. Because of staffing, budgeting, and other limitations, detained individuals often go weeks without an evaluation, during which they may be held in solitary confinement, often exacerbating mental illnesses.

Following a class action lawsuit on behalf of such detained individuals, a federal district required a series of reforms from the state services that included a seven-day maximum for providing competency determinations. On appeal, while the Ninth Circuit agreed that jail was "no substitute" for therapeutic evaluation and treatment, the court tossed the seven-day requirement, finding the week-long limit to go "beyond what the Constitution requires."

9th Circuit Affirms Life Sentence Despite 'Reclassification'

A state's post-conviction reclassification of a crime from a felony to misdemeanor has no bearing on a federal statute's sentencing guidelines, the Ninth Circuit said recently. Even though a criminal might get relief from his felony status years after the fact by the state, federal sentencing rules will still look to the time of conviction in meting out the proper punishment.

Criminal law practitioners would do well to educate their clients on the finer nuances that blend federal and state criminal law.

Courts Can't Forcibly Medicate to Make a Defendant Stand Trial

Can the court force criminal defendants to take medication to make them competent to stand trial? Apparently, no. At least, not in the Ninth Circuit in this particular case.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that a lower district judge should not have allowed the forcible medication of defendant Nna Alpha Onuoha, the former LAX security officer who was accused of making threatening calls over the airport's phone system, calling for authorities to evacuate. Why? Because it wasn't in his best medical interests.

An attempt by the Justice Department to speed up the death penalty process survived a challenge in the Ninth Circuit last week. Under a federal program, states that provide certified, competent representation to capital prisoners can have those prisoners' federal habeas petitions "fast-tracked," dropping the time prisoners have to file habeas petitions in half, reducing delays before the guillotine falls.

Two capital defense providers sued, arguing that the new regulations made it impossible to tell if state programs would be certified, making it difficult for them to protect death row inmates' rights. But those concerns, the Ninth Circuit ruled, aren't sufficient enough to give them standing.

9th Cir. Affirms Denial of Habeas Relief to Armed Robbery Defendant

In what is certainly a confounding jumble of legal issues indeed, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower district court's decision to deny habeas relief to a man who'd been convicted of numerous crimes arising out of his early 2000s Washington state crime spree.

In what was not presented as a petitioned issue, the circuit concluded that although it had affirmed on the issue of habeas, the defendant was free to appeal possible constitutional violations.

9th Circuit Decides Indian Reservation Murder Case

It's rare when issues of jurisdiction actually sound interesting, but a recent case in California makes the grade. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part a criminal judgment against a defendant in a murder case where jurisdiction over the defendant turned on whether or not the victim was Indian.

This case reminds of the duality in the Continental United States between the US Government and the Indian Nations.

9th Circ. Overturns 34-Year-Old Arizona Death Sentence

The Ninth Circuit just overturned a 1982 death sentence handed down by an Arizona court because it found that the convicted was intellectually disabled at the time of the crime; and thus his execution would be cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment and prongs of Atkins v Virginia.

There was not unanimity in the ruling and the dissent opined that the circuit should have deferred more greatly to the state's determination of the defendant's mental capacity. Following this ruling, his sentence has been reduced to life imprisonment.