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Some U.S. Supreme Court Cases Worth Watching This Term


Roughly forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court routinely considered over a hundred cases a year. The Court’s calendar for 2018-19 contains fewer than half that number of cases. That caseload is fairly typical for the modern era. Furthermore, the docket lacks any groundbreaking cases. Given the Court’s mostly-conservative makeup, there would probably be no dramatic changes anyway.

Nevertheless, there are a few criminal law cases worth watching. These decisions could have a significant impact on you and your family.

Death Penalty Cases

More than likely, the Supreme Court will not overturn the death penalty this term. However, there are two cases that affect the administration of capital punishment in Florida:

  • Bucklew v. Precythe: A Missouri death row inmate says he has a genetic condition which would probably mean that he would suffer greatly after a lethal injection. The Court must explore the meaning of the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is what the capital punishment debate is really all about.
  • Madison v. Alabama: Due to a series of debilitating strokes over the last several years, an Alabama death row inmate can no longer remember his crime. The Justices may expand the rule which states that putting mentally disabled individuals to death is cruel and unusual punishment. These defendants cannot understand the full impact of their crimes.

Between 1976 and 2015, only three other states executed more inmates than Florida.

Double Jeopardy/Marijuana Possession Cases

A seemingly abstruse case about the separate sovereignties exception to the double jeopardy rule may have a significant impact on Florida marijuana cases.

In Gamble v. United States, an Alabama court convicted the defendant of illegal weapons possession. Federal authorities then charged him with substantially the same crime. Currently, these dual prosecutions are an exception to the Fifth Amendment prohibition about being tried twice for the same crime. The defendant is challenging the constitutionality of this doctrine.

Why does this matter? Some marijuana possession is legal under Florida law, but all marijuana possession is illegal under federal law. If the Supreme Court does away with the separate sovereignties exception, the decision could affect federal/state prosecutions in other areas as well.

Excessive Fines

Another seemingly obscure case involves the seemingly obscure selective incorporation doctrine. Legally, the Eighth Amendment (excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment) does not apply to the states. It has never been selectively incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment.

Timbs v. Indiana could change that. In a drug trafficking case that carries a maximum $10,000 fine, state officials tried to use the forfeiture law to seize a vehicle worth four times that amount. Timbs could further restrict Florida’s use of the drug forfeiture law and potentially lower fines in other criminal cases.

Immigration and Criminal Convictions

The Immigration and Naturalization Act gives federal authorities the right to detain noncitizens, and hold them without bail, “when. . .released.” Traditionally, courts have inserted an “immediately” between these two words. But in Nielsen v. Preap, ICE arrested the defendant several years after the state case ended.

If the Supreme Court narrowly interprets the INA in this context, the decision could affect other criminal conviction/deportation cases.

Contact Experienced Lawyers

Once again, the Supreme Court may alter existing law in the next few months. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.



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