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Criminal Law

This group of events, news, and resources comes directly from National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) and the student chapter of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Criminal Law News & Resources

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  • Defendant was convicted of aggravated sodomy of a child-victim after entering a guilty plea to that charge.  Following his release from prison, defendant applied to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles for a pardon, which was granted.  Approximately a month after receiving his pardon, defendant moved to North Carolina without providing notice to the Sheriff’s Office that he was doing so.  When contacted, defendant asserted that his pardon obviated his previous requirement that he register as a sex offender.  The Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant for his arrest, and the state charged defendant with failing to register as a sex offender.  Defendant filed for a demurrer, arguing that the indictment was legally invalid because the pardon removed his requirement to register as a sex offender when it ordered “that all disabilities under Georgia law resulting from the above stated conviction and sentence … are hereby removed.”  The trial court denied defendant’s motion, and defendant appealed.  The court of appeals agreed with defendant that the requirement to register as a sex offender was a legal disability, and that the requirement was removed by the Board’s pardon.  Consequently, he committed no offense under Georgia law and the trial court erred in denying defendant’s demurrer.  Before reversing the judgment, the court took “this opportunity to express our sympathy with many of the concerns raised … .”  The court was “deeply troubled by the fact that neither the victim nor the District Attorney’s Office was ever notified that the Board was considering a pardon of [defendant’s] aggravated sodomy conviction.  Indeed, while the Board resisted the State’s attempts at every turn to unseal [defendant’s] pardon file, one of its members did agree to speak with the District Attorney’s Office about the pardon process in general.  And in doing so, this board member indicated that (1) the Board has no policy of contacting the District Attorney’s Office from the convicting circuit or the victim before granting a pardon, (2) no real criteria exists for granting a pardon (“It’s very subjective”), and (3) 99% of all pardon requests are granted.  Suffice it to say, these averments, if true, are shocking—especially the assertion that 99% of all pardon requests are granted.”  Although the information about the pardon process had no bearing on this appeal, the court suggested that “the General Assembly may very well wish to investigate the manner in which the Board is currently exercising its pardon power, and then take any remedial measures that it deems necessary.”  The judgment of the trial court was reversed. 

  • Defendant pleaded no contest and was convicted of multiple counts of possessing child pornography, including at least one movie of a child-victim.  Defendant’s counsel submitted an appellate brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), explaining that she could find no issues of merit, and the court of appeals struck the Anders brief and ordered merits briefing.  Defendant’s judgment and sentences were then affirmed without comment, but the court wrote “to address whether the trial court’s consideration of unsworn victim impact statements” during sentencing was proper.  The victim impact statements were collected through the FBI’s Child Victim Identification Program, which reuses the same victim impact statements across proceedings nationally where prosecutions relate to the possession of the images of child sexual abuse.  The impact statements in this case were drafted by the child-victims and, in some cases, the parents of the child-victims, and defendant objected to the introduction of the statements at sentencing, emphasizing that the victim impact statements were not taken under oath.  After ruling on the admissibility of the statements for sentencing purposes, the trial court reviewed the victim impact statements before denying defendant’s request for downward departure.  On appeal, the court affirmed that sentencing courts have wide discretion regarding the factors it may consider when imposing a sentence.
  • Advocates for Victims of Crime (AVOICE) is a Texas Legal Services Center statewide project providing free direct legal representation and referrals to victims of violent crime, and providing education about crime victim’s rights. AVOICE lawyers offer legal advice, safety planning, pro se assistance, and legal representation. AVOICE also assists victims with applying for crime victim compensation claims. 
  • Minnesota Crime Victim Legal Services Project (MN-CVLS)
  • A general court-martial convicted defendant—pursuant to his pleas—of aggravated sexual assault of a child, indecent liberties with a child and sodomy; defendant received a sentence of 118 months’ confinement, with all but four years suspended, reduction of pay grade, and a dishonorable discharge.  On appeal, defendant arguedthat the military judge erred in two respects.  First, defendant argued that the military judge erred in admitting a portion of the victim’s written and verbal unsworn statements—which asserted that defendant had not taken responsibility for his actions—because the statements do not meet the definition of victim impact as defined by R.C.M. 1001A, and they are not proper aggravation evidence under R.C.M. 1001(b)(4).  The United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, concluding that the evidence was admissible as prosecution aggravation evidence under R.C.M. 1001(b)(4), as well as crime victim impact evidence under R.C.M.1001A.
  • Defendant-petitioners in the consolidated cases were convicted under Colorado law of various charges and ordered to pay court costs, fees, and restitution in varying amounts.  One of the defendant-petitioners had her conviction reversed for trial error and, on retrial, she was acquitted of all charges.  The other defendant-petitioner had one conviction reversed on direct review and the remaining conviction vacated on post-conviction review, and the state elected not to appeal or retry the case.  Following defendant-petitioners’ original convictions, the state received funds from each to satisfy costs and fees, as well as restitution obligations.  Once their convictions were invalidated, defendant-petitioners moved for the return of these funds, and the Colorado Supreme Court held that because they did not file a claim under Colorado’s Compensation for Certain Exonerated Persons statute, which requires petitioners to prove their innocence, the trial courts lacked the authority to order a refund.  Defendant-petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that their due process rights were violated by requiring them to prove their innocence before funds are returned following the invalidation of criminal convictions.  In applying the Mathews balancing test, the Supreme Court found it to be of no consequence that petitioner-defendants “prevailed on subsequent review rather than in the first instance,” as “once those convictions were erased, the presumption of their innocence was restored.”
  • Attorneys, Coalition To Be Honored at Conference After N.H. Rape Shield Case
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