Supreme Court Criminal Law News - U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Criminal Law Category

The Supreme Court released three opinions today, one day before the end of the term. Following last week's headline-grabbing opinions on marriage and healthcare, the Court continued making news, issuing rulings on the Clean Air Act, electoral redistricting and, chief among the opinions, the lethal injection.

In the lethal injection case, Glossip v. Gross, the Court upheld the constitutionality of Oklahoma's lethal injection program. Death row prisoners had challenged the state's lethal injection cocktail, saying it failed to numb the pain of the lethal injection drugs, leading to a horrific death that would feel like being burnt alive. In their dissent, Justices Breyer and Ginsburg came out against the death penalty itself, arguing that capital punishment as a whole is unconstitutional.

SCOTUS Reverses 'Facebook Threats' Conviction

Anthony Douglas Elonis made statements on Facebook threatening his ex-wife, a local school, the local sheriffs, and the FBI agents who came to question him about all these threats.

Maybe that's how it happened. Or maybe Elonis was merely practicing his "rap lyrics" and exercising his constitutional rights in the process. Whatever he was doing, the Supreme Court vacated Elonis' conviction for making criminal threats -- but didn't do much beyond that.

Glossip v. Gross Oral Arguments: How Painful Is 'Painful'?

They're just gluttons for punishment, aren't they? After two and a half hours of arguments yesterday on the topic of same-sex marriage, the justices today opted for some lighter fare: the death penalty.

Richard Glossip, along with two other Oklahoma inmates, contends that the three-drug cocktail that state uses for lethal injections violates the Eighth Amendment.

Drug Dog Search Prolonged Traffic Stop, Says SCOTUS

Using a drug-sniffing dog in a completed traffic stop, in the absence of any reasonable suspicion to do so, is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 6-3 opinion.

Officer Morgan Struble pulled Dennys Rodriguez over for veering onto the shoulder, then jerking back onto the road. Rodriguez had a valid driver's license and no criminal history. After writing Rodriguez a warning ticket, Struble asked for permission to walk his dog around Rodriguez's car. It wasn't actually a question, as Struble did so even after Rodriguez said no. After two passes around the car, the dog alerted to drugs, and indeed, a search of the car revealed methamphetamine.

Rajat Gupta's Cert. Petition on Insider Trading Conviction Denied

Buried among the dozens of denials of petitions for writs of certiorari was this one: docket number 14-534, Rajat K. Gupta v. United States. It appears to be the end of the road for Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs director convicted for insider trading in hedge funds.

Former U. Va. Student Is Petitioning Supreme Court

Former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V is taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2012 for beating his ex-girlfriend, also a lacrosse player, to death.

As is fitting for his station in life (he grew up in a 1.5-acre estate and attended elite private schools), Huguely is represented by none other than former solicitor general Paul Clement from the firm of Bancroft, PLLC in Washington, D.C.

An ankle bracelet is more than a fashion statement: it's a search. At least according to the Supreme Court's holding in Grady v. North Carolina, which found that a state conducts a Fourth Amendment search when it affixes a device to an individual's body, sans consent, for the purposes of monitoring them.

The case involves Torrey Grady, a "recidivist sex offender" who was ordered to wear a tracking device at all times, much to his dislike. Grady's cert. petition asked the Court to decide whether the monitoring bracelet was an unconstitutional search, in violation of the offender's Fourth Amendment rights. The Court didn't go that far, however, content on ruling on the search issue alone.

SCOTUS: A Fish Is Not a 'Tangible Object' for Sarbanes Purposes

Destroying a fish isn't a federal crime, the Supreme Court ruled today, in another victory for sanity when it comes to prosecutorial over-charging.

By a surprising 5-4 split, the Court said that the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that prohibit destroying a "tangible object" refer to tangible objects used to record information, not any tangible object at all.

La. Prisoner Released, Dismissing Juvenile Life-Without-Parole Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will have one fewer case to argue this term, following the release of a Louisiana inmate who's been in prison for almost 30 years.

In 1985, George Toca was convicted of the murder of his best friend during an armed robbery gone wrong. At the time of the murder, which occurred a year earlier, Toca was 17. He was sentenced to life without parole.

Toca's question was whether Miller v. Alabama applied retroactively.

Nebraska, Oklahoma Sue Colorado to Block Recreational Pot

Colorado has legalized marijuana. Undoubtedly, some of the out-of-staters who cross the border to purchase marijuana will take it back with them when they leave. This causes headaches for neighboring states that do not wish to legalize marijuana -- all of Colorado's neighboring states, to be exact.

That is what the Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado lawsuit is about. Two states that barely border Colorado filed suit in the Supreme Court of the United States on Thursday. (Yay, a case of original state v. state jurisdiction that isn't a mind-numbingly boring water dispute!) They somehow hope that the Supreme Court will allow them to dictate what the law should be in a neighboring state by making a federalism argument -- a creative approach that seems unlikely to work.