Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for possession with intent to deliver cocaine, holding that the Wisconsin Constitution permits law enforcement to ask drivers stopped for a traffic violation to exit the vehicle, inquire about the presence of weapons, and request consent to search the driver.Defendant moved to suppress the evidence found during the search of the vehicle, contending that it was fruit of an unlawful search because the arresting officer's actions unlawfully extended the stop, and he lacked reasonable suspicion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the officer did not impermissibly extend Defendant's traffic stop beyond constitutional boundaries because his actions were negligently burdensome directly related to officer safety and therefore part of the stop's mission. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, holding that the circuit court did not err in its evidentiary rulings.On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court (1) improperly excluded the expert testimony of Dr. Lawrence White, and (2) erred in denying his motion to suppress statements that he made to law enforcement because he was not read the Miranda warnings or, in the alternative, because his statements were not voluntarily made. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly excluded Dr. White's exposition testimony on the grounds that it did not fit with the facts of Defendant's case; (2) Defendant was subject to custodial interrogation and was not read the Miranda warnings, but the admission of those statements was harmless error; and (3) all of Defendant's statements were voluntary. View "State v. Dobbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's denial of Defendant's suppression motion, holding that the deputies in this case were not acting as bona fide community caretakers when they seized Defendant's vehicle without a warrant, and therefore, the seizure and ensuing inventory search were both unconstitutional.Defendant was stopped for speeding and had been driving with a suspended operators license. The deputies told Defendant that department policy required them to take the vehicle to an impound lot. Prior to the tow, the deputies conducted an inventory search of the vehicle and discovered a firearm. Defendant was arrested for possession of a firearm by a felon. Defendant moved to suppress the firearm, arguing that the "community caretaker" exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement did not justify seizure of the vehicle. The circuit court denied the motion. Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief challenging the denial of his suppression motion. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the deputies were not acting as community caretakers when they decided to impound Defendant's vehicle; and (2) therefore, the seizure and ensuing inventory search were unconstitutional. View "State v. Brooks" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals denying Appellant's petition for habeas corpus after Appellant previously sought Wis. Stat. 974.06 postconviction relief without success, holding that the circuit court is the appropriate forum for Appellant's claim that postconviction counsel was ineffective for failing to assert an ineffective trial counsel claim and that the language in State v. Starks, 833 N.W.2d 146 (Wis. 2013), is withdrawn to the extent it contradicts this conclusion.In both his habeas petition and postconviction motion, Appellant claimed that he received ineffective assistance of counsel for alleged errors that took place after his conviction. In ruling on Appellant's postconviction motion, the circuit court concluded that Appellant had sought relief in the wrong forum and should have instead filed a habeas petition. Appellant filed a habeas petition, which the court of appeals denied on the grounds that appellant should have instead filed an appeal of the circuit court's denial of his postconviction motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Knight/Rothering framework remains the correct mythology for determining the appropriate forum for a criminal defendant to file a claim relating to ineffective assistance of counsel after conviction; and (2) Appellant's original section 974.06 motion in the circuit court was properly filed. View "Warren v. Meisner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of Defendant's vehicle incident to his lawful arrest for operating while intoxicated (OWI), holding that the search was lawful because the police had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.In affirming the denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, the court of appeals concluded that the lawful arrest for OWI, in and of itself, supplied a sufficient basis to search the passenger compartment of Defendant's vehicle and, specifically, a bag located behind the driver's seat that contained marijuana. The Supreme Court affirmed but on other grounds, holding (1) Defendant's lawful arrest for OWI, in and of itself, did not supply a sufficient basis to search the passenger compartment of Defendant's vehicle; but (2) based on the totality of the circumstances, the police had reasonable suspicion that the passenger compartment, and specifically, the bag might contain evidence of OWI. View "State v. Coffee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals rejecting Defendant's assertion that his second criminal prosecution violated the constitutional proscription of double jeopardy, holding that the State's second prosecution of Defendant for sexual assault did not violate the double jeopardy provisions of the Fifth Amendment or Article I, Section 8 of the Wisconsin Constitution.A jury acquitted Defendant of the charge of repeated sexual assault of a child for engaging in sexual intercourse with the victim, M.T., in "late summer to early fall of 2012." Thereafter, paternity tests revealed that Defendant was the father of M.T.'s child. The State subsequently charged Defendant with sexual assault of a child under sixteen years of age occurring "on or about October 19, 2012," the date it was determined the child was conceived. Defendant was convicted. Defendant moved for postconviction relief, asserting that his second prosecution violated the constitutional proscription of double jeopardy. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the two cases against Defendant did not involve the "same offense" under the Double Jeopardy Clause. View "State v. Schultz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court modified the decision of the court of appeals affirming Appellant's judgment of conviction and the denial of her motion for postconviction relief and affirmed as modified, holding that Appellant appropriately raised her challenge to the circuit court's use of previously unknown information during sentencing and that there was no due process violation in this case.On appeal, Appellant claimed, among other things, that the circuit court denied her due process at sentencing by failing to provide her with notice that it would consider previously unknown information first raised by the court at sentencing. The State responded that Appellant forfeited her direct challenge to the previously unknown information considered at sentencing because she failed to object at the sentencing hearing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) where previously unknown information is raised by the circuit court at a sentencing hearing a defendant does not forfeit a direct challenge to the use of the information by failing to object at the hearing; and (2) Appellant's due process rights were not violated by the circuit court's use of the previously unknown information. View "State v. Counihan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court suppressing the victim's identification of Defendant, holding that State v. Dubose, 699 N.W.2d 582 (Wis. 2005), was unsound in principle and is thus overturned and that the State satisfied its burden that the identification was reliable.The identification in this case began with law enforcement showing a single Facebook photo to the victim. Defendant argued on appeal that his suppression motion was correctly granted on the ground that the police utilized an unnecessarily suggestive procedure in violation of his due process rights as explained in Dubose. The Supreme Court overturned Dubose and held (1) due process does not require the suppression of evidence with sufficient indicia of reliability; (2) if a criminal defendant meets the initial burden of demonstrating that a showup was impermissibly suggestive, the State must prove under the totality of the circumstances that the identification was reliable even though the confrontation procedure was suggestive; and (3) under the totality of the circumstances of this case, the State satisfied its burden. View "State v. Roberson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming both Defendant's judgment of conviction and the denial of his motion to suppress, holding that the court of appeals did not err in determining that law enforcement's search of Defendant's pursuant pursuant to 2013 Wisconsin Act 79 was valid.The officer in this case observed Defendant riding a bicycle in violation of a city ordinance. Defendant's movements concerned the officer, and the officer ordered Defendant to stop. The officer proceeded to search Defendant, asserting that had a legal basis to search him under Act 79 because, part, he knew Defendant was on supervision. Defendant was subsequently charged with drug offenses, and the circuit court denied Defendant's motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court's finding of fact that the officer had knowledge of Defendant's supervision status prior to conducting the warrantless search at issue in this case was not clearly erroneous; (2) corroborated tips of an unnamed informant may be considered in the analysis of the totality of the circumstances; and (3) under the totality of the circumstances, the officer in this case had reasonable suspicion that Defendant was committing, was about to commit, or had committed a crime. View "State v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's judgment granting Defendant's motion to suppress a test of Defendant's blood sample, holding that the State lawfully obtained the blood sample.A police officer arrested Defendant for driving under the influence. Defendant gave the officer permission to take a sample of her blood to determine its alcohol concentration. Before the sample was tested, however, Defendant revoked her consent and demanded the immediate return or destruction of her blood sample. Defendant's blood sample was nevertheless tested. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that Defendant's revocation of consent made the test unconstitutional. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State performed only one search in this case when it obtained a sample of Defendant's blood, and that search ended when the State completed the blood draw; (2) a defendant arrested for intoxicated driving has o privacy interest in the amount of alcohol in that sample; and (3) therefore, the State did not perform a search on Defendant's blood sample when it tested the sample for the presence of alcohol, and as a result, Defendant's consent to the test was not necessary. View "State v. Randall" on Justia Law