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In a recent case involving grand larceny in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the defendant successfully appealed his guilty conviction by arguing that the Commonwealth lacked sufficient evidence to prove him guilty. After agreeing with the defendant’s main argument, the court of appeals vacated his conviction and dismissed his indictment.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was working as a general contractor for a school in Norfolk when he was criminally charged. As part of his work, the defendant was installing a fire suppression system and was going to the construction site regularly to perform his duties. Around that time, an individual stole tools from a large brown box, and the police later named the defendant as a suspect in this theft. He was charged and, eventually, his case went to trial.

The primary evidence the prosecution presented at trial was a surveillance video that supposedly showed the theft in question. The video showed a man reaching into the box, lifting tools from the box, and putting the tools in the bag. The video did not show how many tools, or which tools exactly, were placed into the bag. The prosecution clearly established that the defendant was the person in the surveillance video.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia circuit court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed a lower court’s denial of her motion to suppress. The defendant was originally charged and convicted of drug possession when officers conducted a search of her home; in her motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the officers’ search was unwarranted and that thus the incriminating evidence should have been inadmissible at trial. The court agreed with the defendant that the search was unwarranted, but affirmed her original conviction based on the fact that the officers and judge involved in the search of the property were acting in good faith.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a detective in Virginia received a tip that a wanted person, one who was known for using methamphetamine, was located at a house nearby. The detective drove to the house along with four other officers, knocking on the door and asking anyone inside to immediately exit the premises. Two men came into the yard, and the officers noticed that one of them smelled strongly of marijuana.

The officers then proceeded to conduct a protective sweep of the home. At the time, the officers explained this “sweep” as a way to make sure no one else was in the home before they left the scene to obtain a search warrant. During the sweep, the officers encountered the defendant in this case, who was one of the residents in the home. Again, officers noticed a strong odor of marijuana on her person.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant appealed his convictions for driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a field sobriety test. On appeal, the defendant argued that the police officer he spoke with did not have reason to suspect that he was intoxicated, thus making it illegal for the officer to force him to submit to a breath test. The court disagreed with the defendant, citing several indictors that the officer used to suspect that the defendant had been consuming alcohol.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an officer in Virginia was on patrol one evening when he came across a single-vehicle accident on the side of the road. The officer saw that a car had struck a tree, but also that the car was unoccupied with a cold hood and warm engine. The officer also noticed several beer cans outside of the car’s door.

While investigating the scene, the officer saw the defendant emerging from behind some bushes. The defendant acknowledged that the car next to the road belonged to him and explained that the crash had happened a few minutes prior because he had turned off for the exit too soon. The officer asked the defendant for his driver’s license, and the defendant could not find it, even though it was later found in one of his pockets.

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At Robinson Law, PLLC, we too often hear that our clients don’t know their rights when they are pulled over by law enforcement on the road. As we have articulated in previous blog posts, a person is legally considered to be operating under the influence of alcohol if that person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher. What are a driver’s rights, though, between the initiation of the traffic stop and the BAC test? If you are a driver in Virginia, you should be well versed in your rights on the road.

When Can An Officer Ask You to Perform a BAC Test?

If a police officer ever stops you on the road and tells you they need a reading of your BAC, that officer must have what is called “probable cause” to suspect that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If, for example, the officer has seen your car swerving or has noticed that your words are not making sense, that officer might have probable cause to conduct a breathalyzer test. Without any probable cause, the officer cannot legally conduct this kind of test.

If you have either been arrested for a DUI or under suspicion of a DUI, the officer can legally require you to perform a BAC test. This means that by driving on Virginia roads, you are offering your implied consent to be tested for alcohol when you are arrested for suspicion of driving while impaired. The important takeaway is that as long as you have not given the police officer reason to think you are driving under the influence, the officer has no right to test you, either through a breathalyzer or a sobriety test (i.e., asking you to walk in a straight line).

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In a recent opinion coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s arguments were partially successful in appealing her guilty convictions. Originally, the defendant was convicted of financially exploiting an incapacitated adult and of abusing or neglecting an incapacitated adult. As a result of the defendant’s arguments on appeal, the court reversed the financial exploitation conviction and affirmed the abuse or neglect conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant, a woman in her fifties, lived with her mother, who was in her eighties at the time of this case. In the years prior to this conviction, a social worker had visited the defendant and her mother several times, since it seemed the defendant was not adequately caring for her mother in the apartment. The mother relied on her daughter for financial support, sponge baths, and other personal hygiene matters. The social worker had reported on various occasions that the defendant’s mother often smelled of urine, that neither the defendant nor her mother had a bed to sleep on but instead slept on a couch and a chair, and that both parties had refused many of the social worker’s services when she had come to visit.

One day in 2020, the defendant’s mother fell. Two days later, a pest control worker found the defendant and her mother in their apartment and promptly called 911. The defendant’s mother was taken to the hospital, and the doctors reported that she was covered in feces, urine, and bed bugs at the time she was admitted. She had been lying on the floor for two days before she received care, and she was suffering from bedsores that showed the risk of infection. After being discharged, the defendant’s mother died in hospice care a couple of months later.

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In a recent drug-related case coming out of a federal court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his guilty convictions. The defendant originally pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, but he argued that the evidence of drugs should have been suppressed by the lower court. According to the defendant, the officers that pulled him over conducted an unreasonably long traffic stop, thus infringing upon the defendant’s constitutional rights. The court disagreed with this argument and affirmed the original convictions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two police officers in Virginia pulled the defendant over while he was driving one evening after learning that the defendant’s vehicle had an expired registration tag. One officer approached the defendant while his partner looked into the vehicle’s license plate, discovering that it was fictitious.

After contacting police headquarters to confirm the license’s status, the first officer asked his partner to conduct his own inquiry on a laptop as to whether or not the license was expired. The officers continued by asking for the car’s registration, collecting the vehicle identification number, and gathering necessary information from the defendant. In the process, the officers learned that the defendant had a suspended license due to two prior convictions for driving while impaired.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal of his convictions was denied. The defendant had been found guilty of using a firearm after an altercation involving members of his family and another family with which they were feuding. On appeal, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support his guilty conviction. The court looked at the evidence in the record and ultimately disagreed with the defendant, sustaining his guilty convictions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, members of the defendant’s family were shopping at a local market one afternoon. While shopping, they saw members of another family with whom they had been experiencing a custody battle. Tensions rose at the market and members of both families began fighting.

Later that day, the same members of the defendant’s family appeared at one of the second family member’s homes uninvited. A fistfight quickly ensued. The families parted ways, but after a few minutes, the defendant himself returned to the house. The fight picked back up, and the defendant retrieved a shotgun from his car.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the lower court’s ruling in favor of the defendant was reversed. Originally, the trial court had suppressed incriminating evidence found against the defendant. When reviewing this decision, the higher court determined that the motion to suppress should not have been granted, and they reversed the decision, ruling against the defendant in the case.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an officer received a call one afternoon notifying him of a black car “riding around” and “selling drugs.” While patrolling, the officer found a car matching the description parked next to an apartment complex. When the officer asked several people on the sidewalk if they knew to whom the car belonged, they responded that the driver lived in one of the apartments in the complex. The officer decided to go straight to the apartment to investigate.

A person who did not live in the apartment, but who was babysitting, opened the door for the officer when he approached the unit. When the officer saw the babysitter, he noticed that her eyes were glossy and that she appeared to be very nervous. The officer noticed that behind the babysitter were a small child and a man who appeared to be passed out on the coffee table.

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In a recent firearms case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal of his guilty verdict was denied. Originally, the defendant was convicted of possessing a firearm under the age of twenty-nine after having been convicted of a delinquent act that would be a felony if committed by an adult. Because he had been previously convicted as a juvenile, the defendant was prohibited from having a gun, thus the court found that he had possessed the firearm illegally. On appeal, the defendant argued there was not enough evidence to prove that he had been previously convicted. The court disagreed, ultimately affirming the guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was arrested in 2020 for a separate crime. When the police officer searched the defendant after arresting him, the officer found a firearm tucked into the waistband of the defendant’s pants. The officer checked the gun’s serial number, ran it through his system, and discovered that the firearm had been reported stolen earlier that day.

At the defendant’s trial, the Commonwealth of Virginia provided evidence that as a juvenile, the defendant had been found guilty of a crime that would have been considered a felony if it was committed by an adult. Under Virginia law, it is illegal for a person fitting into this category to possess any firearm. The defendant was then convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted non-violent felon.

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In a recent opinion from a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal was denied because he did not meet the technical requirements necessary in filing his appeal. On all of his court documents, the defendant listed the county instead of the Commonwealth as the prosecuting party, which the court concluded was incorrect. Due to this error, the court refused to consider the defendant’s appeal, and his original guilty verdict was affirmed.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was charged and convicted of driving under the influence. He was sentenced to twelve months in prison as a result of his conviction. After a sentencing hearing, the defendant appealed. He listed himself as the defendant in the case and he listed the Commonwealth of Virginia as the opposing party. Before the appeal, the case had listed the defendant as one party and the county where he resided as the opposing party, recognizing the county instead of the Commonwealth as the plaintiff. Because of the disagreement over which entity constituted the opposing party, the court had to first decide who was the proper opposing party before considering the defendant’s legal arguments in the case.

The Decision

The Commonwealth of Virginia filed a motion in the case, asking the court to remove them from any documents referencing the defendant’s DUI. According to the Commonwealth, the issue at hand was a local issue and was better suited for county lawyers rather than Commonwealth lawyers. The Commonwealth wrote to the court that the Attorney General lacks the authority to deal with “matters related to violations of local ordinances.” The Commonwealth, therefore, asked to withdraw from the case. The court agreed with the Commonwealth’s reasoning, accepting the motion to withdraw given the fact that the Attorney General does not represent localities.

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