DUE PROCESS AND COLORADO’S PRESUMPTION OF GUILT

April 19, 2017, was a good day for individual due process rights thanks to the 7-1 decision handed down by the  United States Supreme Court in the case of Nelson v. Colorado.  In this case, a Colorado jury found Shannon Nelson guilty on two felony and three misdemeanor charges. As a result , the trial court ordered Nelson to pay $8,192.50 in court costs, fees and restitution.  Nelson then appealed and the convictions were later overturned.  At the conclusion of a second trial, Nelson was acquitted on all charges. Most people would probably assume that after the acquittal, the State of Colorado quickly refunded Nelson’s money.  However, that was not the case.  Instead, Colorado said that in order for Nelson to get his money back — he had to file a civil suit and prove by clear and convincing evidence that he was actually innocent. This requirement pretty much annihilated the presumption of innocence while creating a difficult and expensive process for recovering  forfeited money. Fortunately for Nelson, we still have due process rights under the 14th amendment.  In analyzing this situation, the Supreme Court concluded that the presumption of innocence was restored when the conviction was erased. Therefore, it was violation of due process for Colorado to impose an obligation on Nelson to prove his innocence. More specifically, the presumption of innocence means that a person who can’t prove his or her “actual innocence” isn’t any less innocent than one who can. Accordingly, the Due Process Clause prohibits a state government from making a person who was not convicted go through “anything more than minimal procedures” to get...

SENSIBLE IMMIGRATION POLICY (THE MIDDLE WAY)

Today, our immigration attorney, Emilia Ayala,  had the opportunity to appear as a guest on the Mike Madison radio show (WYAB 103.9 FM).  During a one hour interview she was able talk about some of the misinformation and fake news that actually gets in the way of our country’s ongoing efforts to address immigration in a reasonable and cost effective way. From an economic standpoint, the setting of immigration policy will always involve trade-offs — and as with most public policy decisions, there are always winners and losers. But even though our immigration problems remain extremely complex, there are real solutions that make economic sense. The problem at this point is that those solutions are unlikely to occur in today’s polarized political climate. In our view, sensible immigration reform should include: The creation of an an entry-exist system that monitors immigrants both when they come into the U.S. and when they leave. Such a system would most effectively address the problem known “visa overstays” — which include those who simply disappear after overstaying the time limit of their visas. The creation of a procedural pathway which would enable many of the current undocumented immigrants (who are working and do not have criminal records) to obtain legal status and work permits. Mass deportation would present many legal, ethical and moral issues in addition to the fact that it does not make sense from an economic standpoint. This would also allow law-enforcement officials to focus their resources on those who are genuine security or public-safety risks. Improving the existing channels for legal immigration so that they are more in line with...

Municipal Appeals — Time For Filing

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently revisited some of the procedural requirements for appealing municipal ordinances in the case of Pemberton Properties, LLC, et al, vs. The Mayor and Board of Alderman of Pearl, Mississippi,  In this case, the owners of several apartment complexes were unhappy with an ordinance that the City of Pearl had adopted. The property owners elected to appeal the ordinance by filing a bill of exceptions. The law in Mississippi has long been that a person wishing to challenge a city’s decision through a bill of exceptions must do so within 10 days after the decision was made. However, the property owners in the Pemberton case mistakenly thought that the 10 days did not start running until the ordinance actually went into effect (which was more than 10 days after it was adopted). Because of this mistake, the dismissal of the property owners’ appeal was affirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court. As a result, the property owners may have been left without any remedy. You have a number of procedural options and remedies available when it comes to challenging the legality of a municipal ordinance or action. However, this case once again illustrates the importance of finding a lawyer with significant local government law experience if you are going to successfully challenge a city’s actions. For more information on our local government law practice, click...

WARRANTLESS COLLECTION OF DNA — MARYLAND V. KING, 133 S.CT. 1958 (2013)

One of the areas of criminal law that I have always found interesting involves the standards for warrantless searches. Today, I am revisiting an important criminal law case from a few years ago known as Maryland v. King, 133 S.Ct. 1958 (2013). In Maryland v. King, the United States Supreme Court was asked to decide if the Constitution prevented the routine collection of DNA from someone who is arrested. The challenge to collecting DNA without a warrant was based on the Fourth Amendment. As a refresher, the Fourth Amendment states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. The Fourth Amendment protects each of us from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government and stands as one of the pinnacles of privacy law by restricting government conduct. The facts in Maryland v. King were rather simple. In 2003 a woman was raped. She reported the attack and a underwent a rape exam. A sample of the unknown perpetrator’s DNA was obtained and entered into a Maryland DNA database. Six years later, Mr. King, was arrested on unrelated assault charges. After his arrest, a routine warrantless DNA sample was taken by means of a cheek swab. Mr. King’s DNA sample was run through the Maryland DNA database and matched the sample from the 2003 rape exam. Charges were then brought against Mr. King for...

THE RIGHT TO EFFECTIVE COUNSEL

Today’s we review the accused’s constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel. This not only encompasses the right to have counsel — but also to have competent legal representation, regardless of whether you hire your lawyer or your lawyer is appointed by the court.  The right to effective assistance of counsel applies at trial as well as to the plea bargain process. The right to effective counsel comes from the Sixth Amendment which specifically states that: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. One of the seminal cases is Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). This case affirmed that the right to effective counsel exists and is needed to protect an individual’s fundamental right to a fair trial. In Strickland the Supreme Court was asked to determine whether in the death penalty phase the criminal defendant had received effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court established a two part test for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. To be successful on an ineffective assistance of counsel appeal, the defendant must establish the following: That the attorney’s actions and/or inactions fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and That but for the attorney’ ineffective...

THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

In our experience, local police and law enforcement officers can usually be counted on to act fairly and professionally when interacting with members of the public. Nevertheless, it is still important for you to understand your rights. So today we want to revisit one of the most important constitutional rights that we all share — the right to remain silent. In the United States, the right to remain silent comes from that part of the Fifth Amendment which says that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This is also known as your right against self-incrimination. These rights are communicated to you with the familiar words used by law enforcement: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? These five sentences together are known as a Miranda Warning. They are the result of the decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966). As a result of the Miranda decision, law enforcement officials must specifically advise anyone taken into custody of the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. It is important for you to remember that while you have a right to remain silent, it has to be asserted by you or it will be waived. You affirmatively assert your...