The Supreme Court recently heard arguments surrounding two new cases up for review. Both involved the question of just how severe a penalty imposed on a juvenile offender must be in order to declared unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.

The first case, Miller v. Alabama, involved a 14-year-old in Alabama who beat an older man to death and subsequently burned his house down. Evan Miller, the teen, and a friend stole a collection of baseball cards and $300 from a neighbor. They attacked the man with a baseball bat, and killed him when they set fire to his home. The second case, Jackson v. Hobbs, involved another 14-year-old boy in Arkansas who, along with two older boys, tried to rob a video store in 1999. One of the older boys involved in the robbery shot and killed the store clerk as he was going to call the police. Both Mr. Miller and Mr. Jackson received mandatory sentences of life without parole for murder.

Proponents for harsh penalties point to the “sanctity of life” as the reason a juvenile should be sentenced harshly for crimes involving killings. There age should not be an excuse for punishment given the severity of their crimes. However, in oral arguments, Justice Ginsburg turned the argument around, noting that the same interest in the sanctity of an individual’s life could be used as justification for not severely punishing young offenders. By imposing a life sentence without the possibility on a 14-year-old, the state has essentially thrown away that person’s life.

Those opposed to meting out such harsh sentences believe that teenagers are immature and should be given a more lenient punishment because of that inexperience. While they acknowledge a life sentence is appropriate in such heinous situations, they believe that tacking away even the hope of parole is a step too far for such young criminals. Proponents of harsh punishment worry that teens have less incentive to commit such crimes in the future if they know that all they have to do is claim immaturity when they’re caught.

The Court weighed several possibilities when hearing the case and they include the following options:

·              Prohibiting life without parole sentences for any minor under the age of 15.

·              Prohibiting life without parole sentences for anyone under the age of 18.

·              Ban life without parole sentences for defendants who only acted as accomplices to a crime.

·        Bar mandatory sentences, relying on the discretion of the particular judge to consider all the facts and   circumstances of the case before reaching a decision. 

Headed to trial? Got a case that you want to talk about? Call our experienced Idaho criminal defense lawyers today at (208) 342-4633.


Continue Reading Supreme Court weighs question of cruel and unusual punishment for teens

 As any experienced Idaho criminal defense lawyer will tell you, the vast majority of cases are resolved with a plea bargain long before they ever reach a courtroom. Plea bargains are important to prosecutors because they help efficiently clear dockets and allow them to prosecute more cases. They can also be beneficial to defendants by allowing them to serve

Continue Reading Supreme Court Tightens Rules on Plea Bargains

What if you find yourself arrested for a “minor” crime such as failing to pay child support or some variety of traffic violation? You might imagine being taken to jail but would you expect to be subjected to a strip search? Not being a drug user or a violent repeat criminal surely such activity by the police would amount to

Continue Reading Supreme Court permits strip searches for even the most minor of crimes

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution provides you with many of your most important tools at trial. It is intended to guarantee a fair trial to every person accused of a crime. Whether you are charged with DUI, a drug crime, a sex offense, fraud, manslaughter or murder, the Sixth Amendment helps us to get you a fair trial.

If you have been charged with a crime, we will be happy to meet with you to explain your Sixth Amendment rights and how they can help us defend you in your particular criminal defense matter.

So what does the Sixth Amendment provide?  It provides you with these essential rights at trial:

You have the right to be tried by an impartial jury.
You must be informed of the nature of the charges against you.
You have the right to confront the witnesses against you.
You have the right to a lawyer.

These basic rights are just the start – for example you don’t want just any lawyer – you want an experienced trial lawyer.

You don’t really want just any jury that might be impartial – you want a lawyer who can use his or her experience to choose jurors most likely to listen to your story, and jurors who will want to help you.

So the Sixth Amendment gives us a framework to defend you, but the key to your defense – your trial and your innocence – is the lawyer you choose.

Before you hire a lawyer who says he or she has the experience you need to face a prosecution – STOP.  Ask that lawyer the five questions we have here.  Then give us a call. For over thirty years we have been providing the best defense in criminal cases in state and federal courts.Continue Reading Just One Tool – Protecting Your Sixth Amendment Rights

In the world of "star justice," Roger Clemens’ trial for lying to Congress started out looking like "must see TV." It quickly fell apart and the court declared a mistrial based on the failure of the prosecutors to play by the rules. Only six days into the trial, and on only the second day of testimony, prosecutors apparently defied a court order and presented prejudicial hearsay testimony the judge had already barred from trial. The judge specifically found that the government’s conduct had placed the case in a posture where Clemens could not get a fair trial from the seated jury. But could he get a fair trial from another jury? Will the government get a second chance to convict the baseball superstar?

Clemens’ defense lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, claiming that Roger cannot get a fair retrial based on the government’s conduct. The motion is 32 pages long and provides some great reading. Others have written about this in far greater detail than I can here, but the general principle to take away from the motion is this – you have a right to a fair trial in every criminal matter. A fair trial may include hard evidence, prejudicial witnesses and physical evidence that strikes a hard blow. Judges preside over criminal case to insure that the blows will be within the bounds of the law and that the parties will play by the rules. When prosecutors do not play by the rules, the court must step in and use its power to insure a fair trial. 

In the Clemens case, the prosecutors permitted hearsay statements made by Clemens’ ex-wife to be played to the jury despite a prior court ruling that prohibited them from doing so. The prosecution team had put together the video clips and transcript that were shown the jury – so even if they did not intend to violate the court’s order, they had a duty to insure that the order was complied with. In other words, after spending millions of taxpayer dollars to prepare for trial, somebody should have reviewed that video and transcript to make certain they did not violate the judge’s order.

After all – this million dollar fiasco is all about personal accountability, isn’t it? 

So now we await the government’s response to the motion. We will follow-up on this as it develops.


Continue Reading Roger Clemens Attorneys File Motion To Dismiss Indictment – Can He Get A Fair Trial?

Have you noticed how many attorney websites are all about the lawyer and pay no attention to the information that people charged with criminal matters are looking for? Most lawyer websites scream: "Hire me! Do it now! You might go to prison if you don’t act within the next hour! Call me now!"

I hate those websites! Instead of providing information, the lawyers using the sites try to scare you into hiring them based on emotion, not information. The truth is you might not even need an attorney to handle your case. So before you sign that retainer agreement, get informed!

This blog is different. There is a ton of free information here for you to review based on your needs. Have a DUI case? Check out the DUI section of the Topics. Have a question about how to value a personal injury or wrongful death case? Look at the Civil Practice section.

The Topics section can lead you to information that you can use to help you become informed on whatever area of law you are interested in. Well, not every area – this blog is really about criminal defense, civil rights and civil trials. With over thirty years of experience in those areas, my goal is to help you become better informed!

And what if the issue you have is not listed in the Topics? Send me a question and I will get back to you. We promise to get you information – then you can make a great decision about whether you need a lawyer and which lawyer you want to hire.


Continue Reading Idaho Criminal Defense Blog Is About Content – Free Information For You On Criminal Defense In Idaho

 In an odd combination of Justices, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the 6th Amendment right to cross-examine and confront witnesses against you includes the right to question the lab analyst who tested your breath for alcohol in a DUI case. Justices Ginsberg, Scalia, Sotomayor, Thomas and Kagan joined in the majority opinion in Bullcoming v. New Mexico, handed down yesterday.  Opting for efficiency over exercise of the right to cross-examine, Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Alito and Chief Justice Roberts thought a certified written report could be introduced by a technician familiar with the laboratory procedures. The result may turn the DUI business on it’s head.

The Court has now specifically ruled that merely calling that report "scientific" is not enough. This should signal the end of "the machine says he’s guilty, its on the print-put." Prosecutors will have to actually call THE lab analyst so he or she can be cross-examined. Isn’t that the way it should be if the State is trying to convict you of a crime that will leave you unable to drive and serving time?

Gotta go to the dentist so no more time to write about this, but you can read all about it at the here.


Continue Reading BAC Report Not Admissible Without Live Lab Analyst – This Changes Everything For DUI Cases

 A recent Idaho Court of Appeals decision addresses an issue often raised by clients facing a restitution order following conviction or entry of a plea of guilty to a crime. In State v. Blair, a woman who had been convicted of stealing money from her employer objected to the amount of restitution the court determined she owed. She

Continue Reading Restitution Hearing After Sentencing Not Required

 I am working on a case in which a private citizen reported to the police that his neighbor had been drinking, got in an argument and left in his car. The tipster reported that the neighbor was drunk and driving. He gave the likely direction of travel and type of car. Cops notified by dispatch saw a car that matched

Continue Reading Can My Car Be Stopped Based On An Anonymous Tip?

 A recent Idaho Court of Appeals decision follows recent United States Supreme Court precedent, allowing a search of a car incident to arrest, even if the defendant is in custody at the time of the search, and unable to reach into the vehicle at the time of the search. The Idaho case is State v. Cantrell, decided by Judge

Continue Reading Idaho Court of Appeals Upholds Warrantless Search of Car – Just Like The United States Supreme Court Did