Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Petitioner, a prisoner under a sentence of death for the murders of two victims. The court held (1) Petitioner was not entitled to a cumulative review of evidence supporting his alleged actual and legal innocence under due process principles; (2) Petitioner was not entitled to relief on his claim that he was denied his fundamental right to testify; and (3) Petitioner was not entitled to relief on his claim that he was unconstitutionally denied access to materials that may contain DNA evidence. View "Lambrix v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Law enforcement officers may detain the passengers of a vehicle for the reasonable duration of a traffic stop without violating the Fourth Amendment. Defendant was one of two passengers in a vehicle stopped for a faulty taillight and a stop sign violation. Defendant was subsequently arrested for violation of probation. During the search incident to arrest, cocaine was recovered from Defendant’s pocket. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that he was illegally detained during the traffic stop. The circuit court denied the motion. The court of appeal affirmed, ruling that “an officer may, as a matter of course, detain a passenger during a lawful traffic stop without violating the passenger’s Fourth Amendment rights.” The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that the seizure of Defendant did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "Presley v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for first-degree murder but vacated his sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase. The court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence of the victim’s drug use; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by not conducting an inquiry into counsel’s effectiveness pursuant to Nelson v. State, 274 So. 2d 256 (Fla. 4th DCA 1973); (4) Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was not cognizable on direct appeal; (5) competent, substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that Defendant was not intellectually disabled; but (6) in light of a ten-to-two jury recommendation for death, error pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), occurred in this case, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Glover v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s order denying Robert Peterson post-conviction relief as to the guilt phase of Peterson’s criminal trial and denied Peterson’s separate habeas petition. The court, however, concluded that Peterson was entitled to a new penalty phase under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder and evidence tampering and was sentenced to death. The jury recommended death by a vote of seven to five. Peterson appealed the denial of his postconviction motion. The Supreme Court held (1) Peterson was not entitled to relief as to his ineffective assistance of guilt phase counsel claim; but (2) the Hurst error during Peterson’s penalty phase was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, warranting a new penalty phase proceeding. View "Peterson v. State" on Justia Law

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The indigent care provision of the special law applicable only to Sarasota County does not constitute an unconstitutional privilege because it applies equally to all hospitals in Sarasota County, whether public or private. Certain private hospitals sought a declaration establishing their right to reimbursement from Sarasota County for providing indigent care under the indigent care provision of the special law. The County asserted that such reimbursement would provide an unconstitutional privilege to private corporations in violation of Fla. Const. art. III, section 11(a)(12). The trial court entered summary judgment for the County. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the indigent care provision constitutes an unconstitutional privilege because it provides for reimbursement to the public and private hospitals only in Sarasota County rather than in the entire state. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the indigent care provision of the special law does not grant a privilege to a private corporation within the plain meaning of article III, section 11(a)(12) because it applies to all hospitals in Sarasota County. View "Venice HMA, LLC v. Sarasota County" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found on his cell phone by arresting officers pursuant to a search incident to arrest, relying on the holding in Smallwood v. State, 113 Wo. 3d 724 (Fla. 2013) that warrantless cell phone searches are unconstitutional. The First District Court of Appeal reversed, relying on Davis v. United States 564 U.S. 229 (2011) to conclude that because the officers relied in good faith on the holding in Smallwood v. State, 61 So. 3d 448 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011), the appellate precedent at the time of the search, the evidence was not subject to the exclusionary rule based on the good-faith exception. The Supreme Court disapproved the First District’s decision and held that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply to the officers’ warrantless search of Defendant’s cell phone because the officers were not relying on the type of longstanding, thirty-year appellate precedent at issue in Davis, but rather, on a non-final, pipeline case still under active review in the Supreme Court at the time of the search. View "Carpenter v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s order denying Appellant’s claims raised in his motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death, with the exception of Appellant’s ineffective assistance of penalty phase counsel claim, which the court did not address because Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The court vacated Appellant’s sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) regarding the non-unanimous jury recommendation to impose a sentence of death in this case, it cannot be said that the failure to require a unanimous verdict was harmless; (2) Appellant did not qualify as intellectually disabled under Florida law, and therefore, the postconviction court did not err when it denied Appellant’s claim that he was intellectually disabled; and (3) Appellant failed to establish that Fla. Stat. 27.7081 and Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 are unconstitutional either facially or as applied. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law

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For purposes of applying the municipal or public purposes tax exemption contained in Fla. Const. art. VII, section 3(a), a public marina owned and operated by a municipality is a traditional municipal function that carries a presumption of tax-exempt status. The owners of a private marina in Fort Pierce filed a complaint challenging the tax-exempt status of the Fort Pierce City Marina and the Fisherman’s Wharf Marina. Plaintiffs’ amended complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief on the basis that the property appraiser unconstitutionally granted ad valorem tax exemptions to the two marina properties owned and operated by the City of Fort Pierce and the Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency (the City). The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs, determining that neither of the City marinas qualified for the constitutional tax exemption. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that municipal marinas are traditionally considered exempt from taxation. The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to rebut the presumption that the municipally-owned properties that were used exclusively by the City to provide traditional municipal functions were constitutionally exempt from ad valorem taxation. View "Treasure Coast Marina, LC v. City of Fort Pierce" on Justia Law

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Harrel Franklin Braddy was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes. After a penalty phase, the jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of eleven to one. The trial court sentenced Braddy to death. The Supreme Court affirmed. Braddy then filed a motion for postconviction relief, asserting eight claims. The postconviction court denied Braddy’s claims. Braddy appealed the denial of postconviction relief and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s denial of relief for a new guilt phase and denied the claims in Braddy’s habeas petition with the exception of his claim for relief under Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016), holding that Braddy was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of the nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose a death sentence and the fact that it could not be said that the failure to require a unanimous verdict was harmless. View "Braddy v. State" on Justia Law

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Michael Duane Zack, III was found guilty of the sexual assault, robbery, and first-degree murder of Ravonne Smith. After a penalty phase hearing, the jury recommended a sentence of death by a vote of eleven to one. The trial court followed the jury’s recommendation. This appeal concerned Zack’s second successive postconviction motion in which he raised a claim of intellectual disability based on Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. __ (2014). The trial court summarily denied the motion. Zack appealed the denial of postconviction relief and also petitioned for habeas corpus relief. The Supreme Court held (1) with regard to Zack’s postconviction motion, the trial court did not err in summarily denying Zack an evidentiary hearing on his intellectual disability claim and in determining that Defendant did not satisfy the subaverage intellectual functioning prong; and (2) Zack was not entitled to relief under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) because Hurst does not apply retroactively to cases, such as Zack’s, that were final before the Supreme Court decided Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 582 (2002). View "Zack v. State" on Justia Law