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Media Alerts - United States v. Briley - Fourth Circuit
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January 14, 2015
  United States v. Briley - Fourth Circuit
Headline: Introduction of Subsequent Bad Act Was "Harmless"

Area of Law: Evidence

Issues Presented: Whether assault is required element to prove the "physical contact" provision of 8 U.S.C. § 111; and whether evidence of subsequent bad act required reversal.

Brief Summary: On January 12, 2012, two plainclothes police officers were patrolling Dangerfield National Park when they observed Defendant Jay Briley and another man in a car preparing to engage in sexual relations. The officers, along with two other Park Police Officers asked the men to exit the vehicle. Briley refused. The police were forced to physically remove Briley from the car, which resulted in significant injuries to the officers, including for one a damaged pancreas and removal of a gallbladder. In March of 2012, Briley was arrested again for the same crime in the same park, but this time without resistance.

In connection with the January incident, the district court convicted Briley of four counts, including assault and disorderly conduct. Briley appealed. The statute provides for enhanced punishment if there is physical contact with the victim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that equating the "physical contact" provision with an assault requirement would stray from the congressional intent of protecting police officers and would render five out of the six words within the statute inoperative.

On appeal, Briley also complained about the admission of certain prior bad acts evidence. In particular, at the trial, evidence of Briley's March arrest was introduced. The Fourth Circuit decided that introduction of evidence of this subsequent bad act was improper; but, the court further concluded that its admission was harmless. The court felt that the March incident did not fit into the 404(b) exceptions for "intent" or "plan" because the March incident did not involve an assault. The court also found that the evidence was unnecessary because the State had several officers testify to the defendant's actions in January. Regardless, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the holding of the lower court and found that even though the 404(b) evidence should have been excluded, the other evidence against the defendant was substantial enough to render the admission of the improper evidence a harmless error.

To read the full opinion, please click here.

Panel: WILKINSON, DUNCAN, and KEENAN, Circuit Judges.

Argument Date: 09/19/2014

Date of Issued Opinion:
10/22/2014

Docket Number:
Case No. 13-4831

Case Alert Author: Michele Hayes, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Cara Viglucci Lopez, SIDLEY AUSTIN LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. David Sang Hak Lee, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Michael S. Nachmanoff, Federal Public Defender, Frances H. Pratt, Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Alexandria, Virginia; Gordon D. Todd, Sean R. Dickson, SIDLEY AUSTIN LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Wilkinson

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

Edited: 01/14/2015 at 01:59 PM by Renee Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 01/14/2015 01:51 PM     4th Circuit  

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