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Earlier this month, a circuit court in Virginia was faced with the decision of whether to grant a defendant’s appeal in a case involving marijuana and firearm possession. In his appeal, the defendant argued that because of his constitutional right to privacy, the court should have suppressed incriminating evidence that officers found when searching his home. The higher court reviewed the facts of the case and ultimately denied the defendant’s appeal, upholding the original guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two officers came to the defendant’s apartment one afternoon because a neighbor had called 911, reporting disorderly conduct. As soon as the officers stepped out of their car, they smelled marijuana, and they approached the defendant’s door to investigate the odor as well as the possible disorderly conduct.

When the defendant answered the door, he told the officers they could not come in without a search warrant. The officers told the defendant that he had two options: he could let them inside, or he could wait on the porch in handcuffs while they went to get a proper warrant. The defendant conceded that he had been smoking marijuana, and the officers immediately entered the apartment.

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Earlier this month, a Virginia court of appeals denied a defendant’s request to overturn his DUI conviction. Originally, the defendant was charged with and convicted of driving under the influence, and he was sentenced to twelve months in jail as a result. On appeal, one of the defendant’s arguments was that the officer that pulled him over did not have the legal authority to conduct the traffic stop, and thus that the evidence the officer obtained should have been suppressed at trial. Ultimately, the court of appeals disagreed with the defendant and denied the appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a state trooper was patrolling one afternoon when he noticed the defendant, driving with an expired vehicle registration on the back of his car. The officer proceeded to conduct a traffic stop, pulling the defendant over on the side of the road.

At that point, the trooper noticed that the defendant had several orange prescription drug bottles in the car. He also noticed that the defendant’s breath smelled of alcohol, as well as that the defendant’s eyes appeared to be bloodshot. The trooper proceeded to conduct several field sobriety tests, and the defendant was unable to walk in a straight line or stand on one leg during the tests.

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Recently, a court of appeals in Virginia was faced with the decision of whether or not to remove a defendant’s name and identifying information from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. Originally, the lower court had denied the defendant’s petition in 2021, deciding that his information would have to remain on the public registry. On appeal, the higher court agreed, ultimately keeping the defendant’s name on the list.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant pled guilty in 2001 to two counts of “crimes against nature.” While the opinion did not disclose the exact crimes the defendant committed, it did discuss the consequences that were involved. The two offenses happened on the same day, and the convictions forced the defendant to register on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. The defendant complied with the requirements necessary under the registry, and he continued updating his information yearly through 2021.

In 2021, the defendant petitioned the court to remove his name from the registry. In support of his petition, the defendant said both that he had completed sex offender treatment and that he had no other criminal convictions on his record since 2001. The lower court denied the petition, and the defendant appealed.

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Recently, an appellate court in Fairfax County determined that the trial judge incorrectly allowed a trial to proceed in a criminal defendant’s drug case. Because the lower court improperly allowed the defendant’s case to move forward, the defendant was entitled to a reversal. The court then vacated the defendant’s conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was charged with two counts of possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute, what courts often abbreviate as “PWID.” Going into the trial, the Commonwealth argued that the defendant was convicted of a similar offense twice before; thus, because this was his third PWID offense, he should be subject to significant time in prison.

At trial, however, the defendant argued that the Commonwealth’s evidence proving that he was convicted of two previous PWID offenses was insufficient. The documents were not authenticated and showed inconsistent information. The court agreed with the defendant and allowed him to strike the evidence from the record.

Instead of automatically deciding that the defendant could not be found guilty for a third PWID offense, given there was no sufficient proof of the first two offenses, the court allowed the Commonwealth to submit additional evidence supporting the claim that the defendant had been found guilty of the first two offenses. When it heard this additional evidence, the court then decided that there was enough evidence to convict the defendant of a third PWID.

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In a recent appellate opinion regarding a defendant’s violent behavior and eventual killing of his wife, the court agreed with the defendant’s arguments and reversed his guilty conviction. According to the court, there was a significant chance that the defendant acted violently because he suffered from extreme mental illness. Given this possibility, the court vacated the defendant’s guilty conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant’s wife told him she wanted a divorce in March 2017. Infuriated, the defendant began acting violently. He committed several serious domestic violence offenses against his wife, strangling her with his hands and a pair of pajama bottoms.

The defendant’s wife died from injuries related to the incident. The defendant called 911 himself to report what he had done, telling the 911 operator that he had heard voices controlling his mind that told him to commit the offense. When officers arrived at the scene of the crime, the defendant made no attempt to hide what he had done.

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In a recent case revolving around identity fraud in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s verdict and concluded there was sufficient evidence to find the defendant guilty. On appeal, the defendant argued that the Commonwealth was required to present more evidence in order to support the guilty verdict. The court, however, disagreed, and the lower court’s ruling stayed in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case applied for and received a job in September 2016 as a caretaker for an elderly woman. As part of the job, the woman’s son gave the defendant a credit card, and he told her to use the card for anything his mother needed. The woman’s son did not ask for receipts for any of the defendant’s purchases.

In 2018, the woman’s son became suspicious. He noticed that the card had been used to buy jewelry, as well as to buy gift cards to grocery stores and department stores. Acting on these suspicions, the son fired the defendant. A grand jury indicted her of identity fraud, finding that she had illegally used the son’s credit card to fund her own purchases unrelated to the job at hand.

At trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of seven misdemeanor counts and one felony count of identity fraud.

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Recently, a Virginia court denied a defendant’s appeal in a case involving delays due to COVID-10. On appeal, the defendant argued that the delay between the date he was charged for armed burglary and the date he was convicted was unreasonably long, thus violating his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately denied it, deciding the pandemic was sufficient justification for the delay.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with armed burglary after an incident that occurred in September 2018. Apparently, the victim of the burglary was home alone when two men entered her house unannounced. Both men had guns and both men were covering their faces so as not to be discovered.

One of the men immediately began searching the woman’s house for money, while the other kept a gun held to her head. At another point in the encounter, one of the men raped the woman and demanded that she clean herself afterward to erase evidence of the rape.

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Recently, a defendant in Virginia appealed his firearm convictions by arguing that the trial court should not have allowed evidence of a 911 call to be part of the Commonwealth’s case. According to the defendant, the call was not properly authenticated, and thus it was improperly admitted. Disagreeing with the defendant, the higher court denied the appeal and kept the original convictions in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant’s ex-girlfriend called 911 one day in November 2020 to report that the defendant had fired a shot outside her house. The ex-girlfriend said that the defendant had used a silver and brown-looking gun and that he had shot at her car approximately two minutes before the call. The ex-girlfriend also reported that the defendant had been convicted of felonies in the past, as well as that he was angry because the pair had recently broken up.

Eventually, police officers were able to track down the defendant at a nearby hotel. The officers saw the defendant’s car and noticed a live round of ammunition in the driver’s seat. They also seized a backpack that the defendant had been carrying, in which they found a few live .25 caliber rounds.

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In a recent appellate case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant successfully appealed his unfavorable verdict from the lower court. At issue in the case was whether the defendant was fairly sentenced after he violated the terms of his probation. On appeal, the defendant argued the court had improperly considered the nature of his offenses before sentencing him to time in prison. The higher court agreed with the defendant, reversing the lower court’s decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case appeared for a hearing to determine whether he had violated the terms of his probation. The stakes of the hearing were high: if the court were to find that the defendant had violated his probation terms, he would be sentenced to time in prison. If not, he would be re-released to live under the terms of his probation.

The most important factor for the lower court in deciding the defendant’s case was whether the defendant had committed violations that were technical or non-technical. According to Virginia law, when a criminal defendant on probation commits a specific offense coming from a list of ten pre-stated offenses, the defendant has committed a technical violation. All other violations are deemed non-technical in nature.

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The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects Virginia residents from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. In the context of criminal law, the Fourth Amendment generally requires law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant from a judge before performing a search to investigate criminal activity. The warrant requirement does have exceptions that allow police officers to legally perform a search without a warrant. The breadth of these exceptions is constantly in dispute, as evidenced by a recent decision by the Virginia Court of Appeals which affirmed a defendant’s conviction even though police officers searched his vehicle without a warrant.

The defendant in the recently decided case was arrested after he was set up in a “sting” operation. The police had obtained an informant who notified them that the defendant was a substantial narcotics distributor in the region. Under the supervision of the police, the informant phoned the defendant and set up a meeting to purchase a large quantity of methamphetamine and a firearm. Upon meeting the informant, ploice detained the defendant and searched his vehicle. The search revealed drugs and a firearm, and the defendant was arrested for multiple offenses.

Before trial, the defendant challenged the admission of the evidence found in the search of his vehicle, arguing that the police did not have adequate exigent circumstances or probable cause to perform a warrantless search. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion and he was ultimately convicted of the charges and sentenced to over 20 years in prison. The defendant then appealed the trial court’s evidentiary ruling to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

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