Law Office of E. Thomas Dunn, Jr.

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

| Criminal Law

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

| Criminal Law

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

| Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

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

| Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

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

| Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Immigration Law

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 settled…more

| Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

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

| Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

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 recent…more

| Communications & Media Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Education

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

| Criminal Law, Elections & Politics

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

| Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

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

| Criminal Law

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

| Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

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