3rd Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Third Circuit
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The U.S. Supreme Court recently delivered an opinion in Fernandez v. California, where it held that Georgia v. Randolph -- which holds that one co-tenant's consent to search does not override another co-tenants refusal to consent to search -- does not apply when the occupant objecting to the search has been removed, and the remaining occupant provides consent "well after [the other occupant] has been removed from the apartment they shared."

These two Supreme Court cases, along with another case recently decided by the Third Circuit, all have one thing in common -- lovers' quarrels and consent to search.

Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 for crimes related to a scheme dubbed "Kids for Cash" -- an outrageous miscarriage of justice that has resulted in a film of the same name about the scandal. On Monday, the Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari.

The Kids for Cash Scandal

The Kids for Cash scandal involved Judge Ciavarella, and his colleague former Judge Conahan, in a conspiracy to send hundreds of juveniles to private detention centers, in lieu of county-run centers, in exchange for cash payments exceeding $2.8 million. As a result, Ciavarella was convicted of 12 of 39 counts including conspiracy and racketeering, and is serving a 28-year sentence in federal prison in Illinois, reports The Citizens' Voice.

There's a lot of seat-shifting going on right now in the Third Circuit. Between the Trenton Mayor's removal, BridgeGate, and the tentative selection of a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, New Jersey is having a hard time staying out of the legal headlines.

Removal of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack

On Wednesday, New Jersey State Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson removed Trenton Mayor Tony Mack from office, following a jury conviction for fraud, bribery and extortion, all related to government corruption, reports The Associated Press.

While it's questionable why any defendant would waive the rights that make them the envy of defendants round the world, it happens. Negotiating and bargaining doesn't just happen in boardrooms, but courtrooms as well, where defendants bargain away their rights for plea deals and shorter sentences.

But is anything really final? This week, the Third Circuit had occasion to address whether a defendant's waiver of some post-conviction rights had the effect of nullifying an appellate waiver. The court held that it did not.

Like the Second Circuit, the Third Circuit holds a special place in my heart as I spent five years of my life in Philadelphia. And though reading Third Circuit opinions does not sate my appetite for cheese steaks or hoagies, there is never a lack of interesting cases coming out of the Third (yes, I'm looking at you Tenth Circuit and Federal Circuit).

Third Circuit in the News

The Third Circuit made headlines with important cases being decided including a student free speech case that centered on students' right to wear bracelets proclaiming "I Heart Boobies" as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. Also notable, in a warrantless GPS case (with a circuit split brewing) the court held that officers should have first obtained a warrant before affixing a slap-on GPS tracking device to a car. The warrantless GPS decision is awaiting en banc review, and the school district has voted to petition SCOTUS for review, so these will be a hot issues in 2014 as well.

The year is not quite over, but if we were doing a "hot issues of 2013" this one would definitely be on the list: warrantless GPS searches.

In early 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States decided United States v. Jones, where it held that the Government's attachment of a GPS device to a vehicle, and the subsequent tracking of the "device to monitor the vehicle's movements on public streets, constitutes a search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment."

While the court held that the use of GPS tracking constitutes a search, the court left open the issue of whether warrantless use of GPS is permissible where there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

In a case stemming from the Virgin Islands, the Third Circuit had to determine whether a federal court retains concurrent jurisdiction over local claims, even after the federal claims are unproven.

Underlying Claims

Ronald Gillette is a convicted sex offender, and officials received a tip that he was unregistered, and living in St. Croix. Following up on the tip, officials found that he was indeed an unregistered sex offender, and they found him living with a fifteen-year-old boy, and had engaged in sexual relations with him since the boy was twelve. Further investigations revealed that Gillette had also victimized another minor boy.

"If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us." Those are big words, from a big man, but so far, Governor Christie is being stopped, reports The Star-Ledger. The third time was definitely not the charm for New Jersey, who received a third decision, not in its favor, in its attempts to legalize sports betting in the state.

Conrad Clinton Blair was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), and appealed his sentence claiming that his prior sentences were not violent felonies for purposes of the ACCA, and were not "occasions different from one another."

The Third Circuit, however, was not persuaded.

Yesterday, the Third Circuit decided a case that could have a ripple effect across the nation.

The case involved the brothers Katzin, and their spree of burglaries of Rite Aid pharmacies across three states. When Harry Katzin emerged as a suspect through investigation, police consulted with the United States Attorney's office, and put a "slap-on" GPS tracker on Katzin's van -- without first obtaining a warrant.

Law enforcement tracked the brothers, and right after a Ride Aid pharmacy was burgled, the men were stopped in their van. A search of the vehicle turned up items that had been stolen from Rite Aid. Before trial, the brothers moved to suppress evidence obtained in the van, and the district court agreed, suppressing the evidence.