Articles Posted in US Supreme Court Decisions

Original Case Details

The United States Supreme Court has recently heard arguments regarding the case of United States v. Sineneng-Smith. Evelyn Sineneng-Smith challenged a law that makes it illegal to encourage or aid in someone’s illegal immigration. Ms. Sineneng-Smith was convicted under this law of bringing people to the United States under the false pretense that they were eligible for the “Labor Certification” program even though this program had expired in 2001. Ms. Sineneng-Smith operated an immigration consulting firm that worked to help immigrants obtain work permits and green cards. Ms. Sineneng-Smith was accused of telling her clients this information incorrectly and inducing them to come to the United States from 2001-2008. She submitted applications with this false information, and as a part of this case, was also convicted of mail fraud for her activities. A recent United States Court of Appeals ruling in the Ninth Circuit has stated that this law infringes on freedom of speech as it is too broad. Ms. Sineneng-Smith seeks to have the wording of this law changed which would change its current application.

Current Law

The United States Supreme Court sent shock waves to the criminal defense community with their decision in Carpenter V. United States on June 22, 2018. The decision ruled that access to a person’s historical cell-site records is a Fourth Amendment search because it violates the person’s “legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his physical movements.” The court also held that accessing those records requires a warrant. To understand what this decision will mean to the people of the state of Michigan, we turned to leaders in the criminal law community to get their thoughts.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates which has earned a reputation as the top criminal defense firm in our state. Grabel was quoted as saying, “We need to understand that while this is a victory it is a narrow one. In Carpenter, we have a 5-4 decision and when you break down the specifics of the opinion, the court actually states that seven days or more of cell-phone records equate to a Fourth Amendment search. This still provides wiggle room for the government actor to potentially violate the rights of our citizens. Yes, this case was a move in the right direction but we still need further protection when utilizing a cell phone.”

Jeremy Tatum, a criminal defense attorney in Saginaw, Michigan stated, “When we look at cell-site location information (CSLI), we see a grave danger. We have always been taught that our expectation of privacy is lowered once we leave the house and we do assume the risk whenever we have a conversation on our cells. Now, there is some level of protection but not to the point where we should tell our clients to feel comfortable saying anything on their phones. There is still a hidden danger of using a statement as a party admission when you speak too freely on your cell phone.”

In an outcome that shocked many across the country, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision to strike down the “Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act” which was enacted in 1992. News of the decision was followed by a report with the National Football League (NFL) stating that the United States Legislature wants to enact legislation on legalized sports betting. The state of Michigan has the potential to be impacted greatly by this decision. For further insight on the issue, we turned to experts in the legal community to discuss the issue.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has earned a reputation for having the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. Grabel provided his thoughts when he said, “There has always been an element of sports gambling going on throughout the United States. When we look at events such as the NFL and “March Madness” coupled with the Fantasy Sports craze going on in our country, people will find a way to bet on sports. The “Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act” has led to a lot of criminal prosecutions as was seen in “Operation Slapshot” and other criminal enterprises. This decision is a victory for the individual that wants to bet on sports and not have to worry about obtaining a felony in the process.”

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan. McManus added, “Sports gambling is an issue that has reached the congressional floor many times. With the Supreme Court decision, we see that the states will have the power to regulate sports betting. This provides a tremendous amount of opportunity for the state of Michigan if they choose to take advantage of it.”

In a decision that has shocked many in the legal community across the country, The United States Supreme Court made a controversial ruling on June 26th stating that evidence found by police officers after illegal stops may be used in court if the officers conducted their searches after learning that the defendants had outstanding arrest warrants.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision stated that such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment when the warrant is valid and unconnected to the conduct prompted by the stop. While Thomas is no stranger to controversy, this decision may have a profound effect on the state of Michigan and the criminal law landscape.

The case, Utah v. Strieff came about from government surveillance of a home in South Salt Lake based on an anonymous tip of “narcotics activity” there. Officer Douglas Fackrell stopped the defendant after he left the house based on what the state later conceded were insufficient grounds making the stop unlawful (Utah v. Strieff, No. 14-1373). The officer ran a check and found out that the defendant had a warrant for a minor traffic violation and during a search incident to an arrest, the officer found a baggie containing methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia.

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