11th Circuit overturns several criminal counts in House case

In December 2010, Stephen G. House, a former federal police officer employed by the Federal Protective Service, was sentenced to a prison term, fined and subjected to other conditions following a trial on charges that he made a number of traffic stops without having the legal authority to do so.

House’s case was heard in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Material developments in the matter have ensued in the wake of that trial, with House’s appellate counsel, the Law Firm of Shein & Brandenburg P.C., Federal Criminal Law Center, securing reversal of House’s federal conviction on several criminal counts against him.

In a recently concluded appeal from the trial court’s decision in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court vacated four of the 12 counts against House, remanding them for further proceedings.

A key focus of the appellate court was on House’s challenge to jury instructions given by the district court concerning traffic stops carried out by House. The trial court instructed the jury that a stop is constitutionally impermissible under the Fourth Amendment if carried out by a law enforcement officer without jurisdiction or authority.

The court of appeals found that instruction to be a misstatement of the law and in direct collision with Whren v. United States, a case in which the U.S. Supreme court held that a traffic stop is reasonable if supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion. That is true, stated the Court, even if the stop is inconsistent with agency policy.

It was clear error, concluded the appellate court, to instruct the jury that House could be convicted even if he had reasonable suspicion or probable cause for making a stop.

As a result of that error, House’s convictions on four criminal counts were reversed.

A number of additional issues were also raised by appellate counsel during the case.

A federal appeals case can be complex and involve a number of matters central to a trial court disposition. Capable appellate counsel can make a material difference in the outcome of a case.

For diligent representation in any federal criminal matter, contact a proven Atlanta post-conviction attorney with a deep well of experience in federal criminal appeals.

Source: uscourts.gov, “U.S. Court of Appeals Eleventh Circuit decision, No. 10-15912,” June 20, 2012