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Week 29 (2020)

Week of July 13, 2020 through July 17, 2020

United States v. Webb (Harris 7/13/2020): After a jury convicted the defendant of multiple criminal offenses related to drug trafficking and money laundering, the district court sentenced him to life imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant raised several challenges to his conviction, which the Fourth Circuit found unavailing. However, because the district court failed to address the defendant’s non-frivolous mitigating arguments against his life sentence, the Fourth Circuit found the sentence procedurally unreasonable. Therefore, the court affirmed the defendant’s convictions, but vacated and remanded the case for resentencing. Full Opinion

Nunez-Vasquez v. Barr (Gregory 7/13/2020): David Nunez-Vasquez, a Mexican citizen, petitioned the Fourth Circuit for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) finding that he was removable because he had been convicted of two crimes involving moral turpitude. On review, the Fourth Circuit held “that neither [of Nunez-Vasquez’s two convictions] were categorically a crime involving moral turpitude.” 2020 WL 3959159, at *1 (4th Cir. July 13, 2020). Therefore, the Fourth Circuit granted Nunez-Vasquez’s petition, vacated the BIA’s order for removal, ordered the Government to return Nunez-Vasquez to the United States, and remanded to the BIA for further proceedings. Full Opinion

United States v. Bolden (Harris 7/13/2020): The Fourth Circuit, finding the district court made no findings linking the defendant’s possession of a firearm to his felony drug possession, vacated the district court’s decision to apply a four-level enhancement to the defendant’s sentence, based on Sentencing Guidelines offense level for possession of a firearm in connection with felony possession of cocaine. The Fourth Circuit, therefore, remanded for resentencing. Full Opinion

United States v. Coston (Floyd 7/13/2020): During the defendant’s third supervised release, he failed a third drug test in a one-year period. That failure led the district court to revoke the defendant’s supervised release and impose a thirty-six month revocation sentence on the defendant. The defendant’s thirty-six month revocation sentence was above the range prescribed under the Sentencing Guidelines. On appeal, the defendant argued that following the precedent set in United States v. Haymond, 139 S. Ct. 2369, 2373 (2019)—which found a different mandatory revocation provision, 18 U.S.C. § 3583(k) unconstitutional—that 18 U.S.C. § 3583(g), like § 3583(k), violated his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. But the Fourth Circuit rejected that claim, “hold[ing] that any constitutional error was not plain at the time of appeal.” Therefore, the court affirmed the revocation of the defendant’s supervised release and the district court’s sentence. Full Opinion

United States v. Bank (Thacker 7/14/2020): The Fourth Circuit held disgorgement in a civil Securities and Exchange Commission proceeding is not a criminal penalty for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause. Full Opinion

Hicks v. Ferreyra (Harris 7/14/2020): Nathaniel Hicks alleged that the U.S. Park Police (USPP) unlawfully seized him following two traffic stops in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He brought a Bivens action for damages against two USPP officers. In the district court, the officers moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The district court denied the officers’ motion. On appeal, the officers argued that Hicks’s constitutional claim should have been dismissed at the outset. That argument, however, was not raised below. And the Fourth Circuit dismissed that argument on appeal, saying that the forfeiture rules govern. The forfeiture rules, the court said, prohibited the officers from raising a claim that was not raised below. The officers also argued that the judge below misconstrued evidence in the record. The Fourth Circuit did not take up that argument because its jurisdiction, in this particular appeal, was limited to questions of law, not fact. Full Opinion

United States v. Curry (en banc) (Floyd 7/15/2020; Dissents: Wilkinson, Richardson): The Fourth Circuit held that the exigent circumstances doctrine did not justify the suspicionless stop of the defendant. The exigent circumstances doctrine, the majority opinion noted, typically involves emergencies justifying a warrantless search of a home, not an investigatory stop of a person. Moreover, the court distinguished the few cases that applied the exigent circumstances doctrine to investigatory seizures from the facts in the defendant’s case. Full Opinion