E. Thomas Dunn, Jr.

E. Thomas Dunn, Jr.

Law Office of E. Thomas Dunn, Jr.

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Latest Publications


U.S. Supreme Court Reaffirms Broad Protections of Double Jeopardy Clause

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars a defendant from being tried twice for the same offense. There has traditionally been a distinction between substantive and procedural dismissals...more

12/27/2013 - Acquittals Double Jeopardy Evans v Michigan SCOTUS

What Is “Harmless Error” in a Criminal Trial?

Even fair criminal trials are usually not perfect. In Chapman v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that the state has the burden of proving that a constitutional error was harmless....more

12/24/2013 - Harmless Error

Major Ex Post Facto Decision by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Peugh v. United States that a defendant may not be sentenced under guidelines issued after the crime was committed if those guidelines provide for a harsher sentence. This violates the U.S....more

12/20/2013 - Criminal Prosecution Ex Post Facto Clause Federal Sentencing Guidelines SCOTUS Sentencing

U.S. Supreme Court Carves Out Exception to Fifth Amendment Protections

In the groundbreaking case of Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people in custody must be apprised of their right to remain silent, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Since the right against...more

12/17/2013 - Fifth Amendment SCOTUS

The Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel During Sentencing

The U.S. Supreme Court has long interpreted the Sixth Amendment to embody a right to effective assistance of counsel, which includes the right to effective assistance during sentencing. There have been several important cases...more

12/13/2013 - Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Right To Counsel Sentencing Sixth Amendment

Must Sentences Be Proportionate to Comply with the Eighth Amendment’s Prohibition Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

In Harmelin v. Michigan, the U.S. Supreme Court makes clear that there is no proportionality requirement for criminal sentences. Here are some important facts regarding this case...more

12/10/2013 - Cruel & Unusual Punishment Eighth Amendment Federal Sentencing Guidelines SCOTUS Sentencing

Recent Fourth Amendment Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court

The law regarding the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, is constantly changing. A warrant, which should be limited in scope and based on probable cause, is normally required to conduct a...more

12/6/2013 - Florida v Harris Fourth Amendment SCOTUS Search Warrant

When New Supreme Court Rulings Do Not Apply Retroactively

In Padilla v. Kentucky, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an ineffective assistance of counsel claim under the Sixth Amendment could be based on a defense attorney’s failure to apprise a criminal defendant of the immigration...more

12/3/2013 - Criminal Prosecution Deportation Immigrants Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Padilla v. Kentucky Pleadings SCOTUS Sixth Amendment

Plain Error Need Only Be Plain at the Time of Appellate Review

Under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 52(b), “A plain error that affects substantial rights may be considered even though it was not brought to the court's attention.” In U.S. v. Henderson, the U.S. Supreme Court...more

12/2/2013 - Appellate Rules Criminal Prosecution Plain Error

Understanding the Plain View Doctrine

The plain view doctrine is an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, which allows law enforcement to seize incriminating items that are in plain view....more

11/26/2013 - Fourth Amendment Law Enforcement Plain View Doctrine Police Search Warrant

Protecting Students in the Information Age

Information travels at the speed of light in an era where everyone is connected through Internet, social media, text messages and smartphones. Yet legislation lags behind. Many cases of student harassment have emerged in...more

11/25/2013 - Data Protection Harassment Minors Personally Identifiable Information Students

California Builds More Prisons to Resolve Prison Overcrowding

Court orders requiring the state of California to deal with the problem of prison overcrowding have forced Governor Jerry Brown to be proactive about raising taxes and moving prisoners to county prisons and privately held...more

11/19/2013 - Prison Prison Overcrowding

Improper Jury Instructions: The Rationale for Criminal Appeal

Jury instructions form the foundation for fairness in criminal proceedings. A panel of your peers convenes to make decisions about your guilt or innocence in a case. The jury hears the facts, reviews the evidence and analyzes...more

11/15/2013 - Appeals Jury Instructions

Sentence Enhancements: Who Should Decide?

Elements of a crime that trigger sentence enhancements — such as use of a firearm or endangering the public — are findings of fact that could affect the maximum sentence a person could receive if convicted. Many criminal...more

11/12/2013 - Sentencing Sentencing Enhancements

Judge Dismisses Case, Double Jeopardy Bars Retrial

A trial judge in Michigan mistakenly imposed too high a burden of proof on prosecutors seeking to convict the prime suspect in an arson case — improperly dismissing the case against the criminal suspect. The judge required...more

11/8/2013 - Burden of Proof Criminal Prosecution Dismissals Double Jeopardy Evans v Michigan SCOTUS

Smartphone Searches, Not Too Smart

On the docket for the U.S. Supreme Court 2013 to 2014 session is a case about warrantless searches of smartphones. The decision could affect hundreds of suspects who were tried and convicted based on cellphone evidence...more

11/5/2013 - Mobile Devices Police Smartphones Warrantless Searches

Miranda Rights: Silence Has its Limits

Prosecutors can legally use your silence during a pre-arrest interrogation as evidence of guilt during a forthcoming criminal trial, according the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Salinas v. Texas. “Popular misconception...more

11/1/2013 - Fifth Amendment Miranda Warnings Right to Remain Silent Salinas v Texas SCOTUS

Arrested, Booked and DNA Tested?

Police and prosecutors gained a new weapon in their criminal investigation arsenal this year after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld legislation in Maryland permitting officers to take a cheek swab sample while booking a suspect...more

10/29/2013 - Arrest DNA Genetic Testing

Losing the Right to Cross-Examine: Anonymous Tips and Trials

Serious controversy surrounds a police officer’s right to stop, question and search a suspect based on an anonymous tip. Unless the officer observes dangerous and disruptive behavior that warrants detention, a criminal...more

10/25/2013 - Cross Examination Stop and Frisk Tips Trials

Up in Arms over the Second Amendment

California lawmakers declared open season on the right to bear arms in the final weeks before the end of the legislative session this September. Lawmakers have taken steps to pass some of the most stringent gun-control...more

10/23/2013 - Firearms Gun Laws Second Amendment

Can All Evidence Be Presented?

The legal collection of evidence in a criminal defense matter is crucial. So is its presentation. In a recent Supreme Court case, the Court discussed a Nevada matter and the appropriateness of exclusion of evidence for the...more

10/7/2013 - Domestic Violence Evidence Exclusions Rape SCOTUS Sexual Assault

Understanding the Writ of Habeas Corpus

Strong legal counsel is essential to try and avoid conviction on criminal charges. It is just as important to get good legal advice if you are convicted. Given the unique facts of each case, and the possibility of errors at...more

10/2/2013 - Criminal Defense Criminal Prosecution Habeas Corpus

When Dog Mauling Means Murder

After being mauled by four unrestrained pit bulls on an isolated Littlerock road, 63-year old jogger Pamela Devitt died in an ambulance from blood loss resulting from approximately 150 to 200 dog bites. Genetic tests from...more

9/30/2013 - Dog Attacks Murder

Two Deaths, Two Systems of Justice

Two events: In February of this year, 26-year old Olympian Oscar Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp in Pretoria, South Africa. Sketchy facts of the case tell us Mr....more

9/24/2013 - Athletes Jury Trial Murder

Jury Trials: When Opinion Counts

Justice may be blind, but juries are not. If you face a criminal trial in California, the clearest legal argument may not help if the jury is offended by your behavior in the courtroom. Understanding trial etiquette is...more


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