January 17, 2014 4th Circuit published opinions

United States v Freeman

Freeman pled guilty to obstructing his bankruptcy proceeding by giving false testimony. The government sought restitution for victims of an uncharged fraud scheme which the district court ordered. The panel reversed. It held that the restitution was order as part of supervised release. It then joined the overwhelming weight of authority and held that restitution awards imposed as conditions of supervised release must be caused by the actions which support the conviction, not any person whose interests were harmed by the defendant. Here, the false statements did not have any causal connection to the losses claimed by the government and the restitution order was therefore reversed. The case was remanded to determine if a fine should be imposed as the restitution order was in lieu of a fine.

United States v Green

Green moved to suppress cocaine found as a result of a dog sniff on the grounds that the traffic stop was unlawfully extended and the dog was unreliable. The District court denied both motions and Green entered a conditional guilty plea. The panel affirmed. It held that the officer acted reasonably after learning Green had a protective order against him by asking for a criminal record check. It also held that then officer acted diligently in preparing a citation and the 4 minute delay waiting for the record check result was de minimus. As tot eh dog, applying recent United States Supreme Court authority, the panel held that testimony that the dog passed his annual certifications was sufficient to establish reliability.

United States v Heyer

Heyer was found to be a sexually dangerous person and committed to the custody of the Attorney general. On appeal, he challenged the use of simultaneous sign language interpretation and his commitment and also raised due process and equal protection arguments. The panel rejected all his arguments and affirmed. As to the interpretation issue, the panel held that simultaneous interpretation is the method required by the interpreter’s statute and in any event on plain error review there was no prejudice as the district court provided four interpreters and stopped the proceeding if Heyer was unable to understand the proceedings. As to Heyer’s commitment, the panel held there was no clear error as the district court considered the proper evidence, including Heyer’s deafness and linguistic difficulties, and permissibly found Heyer to be dangerous particularly as the evidence showed Heyer remains attracted to young boys. The panel rejected the due process and equal protection claims as foreclosed by 4th Circuit precedent.

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