Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

In a recent case before a Virginia Court of Appeals, the defendant argued that the lower court had unfairly sentenced him after his third DUI conviction. According to the defendant, the court considered the defendant’s previous two DUI offenses as evidence when deciding his sentence, and they were only technically allowed to consider one of the offenses in question. Ultimately, the higher court disagreed, and the original sentence was kept in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was first convicted of driving under the influence in early 2020. He was convicted for a second DUI offense in the summer of 2021, and he was convicted for a third DUI offense in late 2020. When the defendant was pulled over for the third DUI, the officer conducted a blood test and found that the defendant’s blood alcohol was .405%, well above the Commonwealth’s legal limit.

When the defendant’s third DUI case went to trial, the court looked at the defendant’s record to find out how many previous DUI convictions the defendant had obtained. The more convictions the defendant had on his record, the higher his sentence would be. Because the defendant was in the process of appealing his second DUI conviction, he argued the court should not consider this second conviction when deciding his sentence.

The trial court, however, ruled that the second conviction was admissible, and the court sentenced the defendant to five years in prison as a result.

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Earlier this month, a circuit court in Virginia ruled on a defendant’s appeal of his rape conviction. Originally, the defendant was charged and convicted after he allegedly showed up as his ex-girlfriend’s house and had non-consensual sex with her. On appeal, the defendant argued the evidence was insufficient to support his guilty conviction, and he asked the higher court to reverse the verdict. The higher court, however, ultimately disagreed with the defendant and sustained his original conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case showed up at his ex-girlfriend’s home one evening, with whom he had been in an “on again, off again” relationship. The ex-girlfriend answered the door and said that she was very tired, that she had fainted earlier in the day, and that she just wanted to go to bed. She explicitly told the defendant she did not want to have sex, but she let him inside to lie in bed with her while she fell asleep.

The ex-girlfriend awoke to the defendant having sex with her while she was asleep. She told him to stop, jumped out of bed, and got a handgun from her dresser. She fired a warning shot into a mirror, and the defendant immediately ran away. The ex-girlfriend called the police, and the defendant was charged with rape.

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Recently, a circuit court in Virginia ruled on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s appeal in a sex abuse case. The defendant had been charged with having sexual intercourse with a child, and the trial court had made the decision to suppress certain statements the defendant made to officers investigating the crime. On appeal, the Commonwealth argued that the statements should not have been suppressed, since the defendant had made the statements voluntarily. Agreeing with the Commonwealth, the higher court reversed the trial court’s decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was brought into the police station because officers suspected him of abusing his role as a child custodian and having sex with a minor. The officers had not charged the defendant with any crime, but they wanted to speak with him to figure out if he was a legitimate suspect.

At one point in the conversation, the officers asked the defendant if he would submit to a polygraph test. The defendant asked to consult with an attorney about the decision. The officers said that would be fine, then proceeded to question the defendant more about the situation by asking him if he would agree to participate in a DNA swab. To this, the defendant agreed.

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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 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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By Andrew Criado, Senior Attorney

The four most important words in criminal law: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. What does that mean? It means that a person charged with a crime cannot be convicted and punished unless the prosecution can prove the defendant’s guilt in court beyond a reasonable doubt. The government’s evidence has to erase all reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. What if, at the end of the prosecution’s case, there remains some doubt about whether the defendant committed the crime? Then the charge must be dismissed. What if the prosecution proves that the defendant probably committed the crime? Then the charge must be dismissed. In a criminal case, any conclusion other than proof beyond a reasonable doubt requires that the charge be dismissed—forever.

The government gets one shot at proving its case. This concept is important because it makes clear that a criminal case is about whether the government can prove the crime rather than whether the crime actually happened. There are many cases where the evidence shows that the defendant most likely committed the crime but the charge is nonetheless dismissed because the evidence does not meet the high burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

A Miranda warning is designed to be a protection against self incrimination, that is, a protection from defendants being forced to make statements or give other information that will help the government convict them of a crime. The Miranda case says that where a person is in custody and being interrogated (asked questions) those circumstances are similar to a forced confession. For that reason, the police must first warn a person who is in custody and being questioned that they have the right to remain silent, that what they do say will be used against them in court, and that they have the right to a lawyer. Unless the warning is given, the statements made by the defendant cannot be used in court.

Why did I receive a Miranda warning? Simply, because the police hope that you will make statements they can use to convict you. It is never just to “get your side of things,” it is always to build a case against you.  At the end of the warning, you may be asked if you understand you rights and are willing to waive them. The answer should be “no” 100% of the time until you can talk to a lawyer. Any statement you make, even if you declare your innocence, can be twisted and used against you.

But what if you were arrested and never received a Miranda warning?  Does that mean the charges will be dropped? Not necessarily. First, any statements that are volunteered to the police don’t require a Miranda warning. In other words, if you tell them things without being asked a question, Miranda doesn’t apply because you aren’t being “interrogated.” This is true even if you have already said you are remaining silent and have asked for a lawyer.

by Bret Lee, Senior Attorney

Domestic assault charges in Virginia require the best defense.  Family is the most important thing for most people.  That is part of why a domestic assault charge can be so terrifying to someone who has not been in trouble before:  it cuts to the core of your personal life.  At Robinson Law, we are experienced in defending those who have been charged with domestic assault or assault against a family member. We are prepared to do what it takes to guide you to the best outcome possible.  It starts with informing you about how the case will proceed in court, how you may help us, and preparing you for the possible results of the case.

There are some common misperceptions about domestic assault charges.  The charge is brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia, not just the alleged victim.  If the victim changes his or her mind and does not want to proceed with the charge, that does not mean the case will be automatically dropped in Virginia.  In fact, the victim can sometimes be forced to testify in court against the defendant.  The charge also cannot be dropped by a civil settlement.  It is still critical to have an attorney help resolve the case even if everyone wants a dismissal, because not all dismissals are treated the same under Virginia law.

Have you ever wondered when a police officer is authorized to search you? Or if he has enough evidence against you to make an arrest? This is where the familiar terms “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” come in to play. These concepts are fundamental in determining if and when a person can be detained for questioning, searched and arrested (seized).

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. But what exactly does ‘unreasonable’ mean? Rather than following a neat, concise set of legal rules, reasonable suspicion and probable cause are based on the circumstantial interpretation made by the police officer(s). However, the officer’s interpretation must align with the Constitution, which is not always the case. In this week’s post I break down these two terms and provide examples through hypothetical DUI stops.

● Reasonable suspicion for an investigative stop – An officer can briefly detain a person if he has a reasonable belief that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed. The officer may also perform a limited search (frisk) of the outside of the person’s clothing if he has a reasonable belief that the person is armed. The officer’s belief must be based on facts or circumstances. In other words, an officer cannot simply “guess” or “feel” as though a crime has been, is being, or will be committed.

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