Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

In a recent case before a court of appeals in Virginia, the defendant argued that the judge in the lower court unfairly sentenced her after she violated the terms of her probation. On appeal, the court looked at the evidence and agreed that the court imposed an excess sentence, and that the case should be remanded so that the defendant would have another chance to argue her case before a trial court judge.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was convicted on several controlled substance charges, and she was sentenced to several years in prison as a result. The sentencing court, however, suspended part of her sentence because the defendant agreed to comply with the terms of her probation. These rules included the stipulation that the defendant had to follow all rules set by her probation officer. She also had to remain drug free for the entire term of her probation.

In February 2022, the defendant was brought into court on an alleged violation of her probation. She admitted during this hearing that she had used a controlled substance, despite the rule that she was supposed to remain drug free. The court then revoked the remaining four years of the defendant’s suspended sentence and sent her back to prison. The defendant promptly appealed.

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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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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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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.

Virginians who feel that they may be experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They either seek medical help just to potentially be criminally charged with driving under the influence or drug use, or they do nothing and put their health and lives at risk. Luckily, the Virginia state court of appeals recently issued a decision that widens the state’s medical amnesty law, Code §18.2-251.03, a law that shields individuals from criminal charges if they seek medical attention because of a drug or alcohol overdose.

Facts of the Case

According to the decision, the defendant-appellant was arrested outside of an emergency room for controlled substance possession and driving under the influence. Police escorted him into the emergency room. Once inside, the defendant began to make suicidal statements and represented that he chose to go to the emergency room because he was thinking about suicide. The defendant further explained that he believed drugs to be the cause of these thoughts, because he had smoked crack cocaine and used heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.

When the state attempted to use evidence of the defendant’s drug intoxication at trial, the defendant’s counsel attempted to suppress that evidence, arguing that the defendant was attempting to seek medical care for himself and should be immune from those charges. The trial court denied the motions to suppress the evidence and dismiss the drug charges, saying there was no evidence the defendant was experiencing a life-threatening condition.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the Commonwealth attempted to argue that the defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating evidence should have been denied. Originally, two officers pulled the defendant over in his vehicle and searched the car after getting a glimpse of an open container as well as a bit of marijuana inside. The defendant argued the officers’ search was unconstitutional, and the lower court agreed with him. When the Commonwealth appealed, the higher court affirmed the lower court’s decision and concluded that the officers infringed on the defendant’s right to privacy.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two officers stopped the defendant one evening after they noticed his car traveling across lanes without any turn signal. During the traffic stop, the officers noticed an open container of liquor in the passenger seat. The container appeared as if was partially empty, even though the bottle cap was still screwed on.

The officers asked the defendant’s passenger to produce her identification. When she reached for her purse and wallet, the officers noticed a green, leafy substance inside of her wallet that they suspected was marijuana. The passenger confirmed that she had purchased the substance and that it was indeed marijuana; however, the marijuana was legal and the officers had no reason to suspect there were other drugs inside the vehicle.

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In a recent case coming out of a court that oversees the Commonwealth of Virginia, the defendant appealed his 219-month sentence based on drug convictions. On appeal, the defendant argued that a law passed in 2010 reduced the maximum sentence he could face for a conviction related to cocaine possession. The court looked at the law in question and ultimately disagreed with the defendant, denying his appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was convicted approximately ten years ago of participating in a 2009 drug conspiracy. In 2012, a trial court concluded that the defendant had dealt with powder and crack cocaine in the conspiracy, and he was sentenced to 219 months in prison as a result.

Two years prior to the conviction, in 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the statutory penalties for crack cocaine offenses nationwide. After its enactment, the government had to decide whether or not the Act applied to defendants who had been convicted before 2010 – that is, did defendants convicted of crack cocaine offenses qualify for lower sentences even if those convictions occurred prior to Congress’s passing of the Act? Congress decided in 2018 that yes, the Act would apply to pre-Act offenders who had not yet been sentenced when the Act became effective.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the Commonwealth appealed a lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress. In its argument, the Commonwealth emphasized that the court should not have suppressed incriminating evidence found on the defendant’s person because the defendant consented to the officer’s search, thus making it a reasonable circumstance under which the officers found illegal drugs. The higher court denied the Commonwealth’s appeal and affirmed that the drugs were properly suppressed.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was riding in an Uber one afternoon when the Uber driver called 911 to report that the defendant was passed out in the back of the car. Officers arrived at the scene and approached the vehicle to speak with the defendant. At that point, the defendant was alert and able to communicate. The defendant got out of the car and moved to the sidewalk so that he could speak with the officers; at that point, one of the officers asked the defendant for his identification, and the defendant handed over a Colorado driver’s license as well as a Virginia driver’s license.

The officer recognized the defendant from previous interactions and asked to search his pockets. The defendant agreed, and the officer began his search. The officer did not present any Miranda warnings or tell the defendant that he was free to leave.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant appealed her conviction based on a violation of her suspended sentence. The defendant was under a suspended sentence for several years and had been reporting to drug court throughout the years to prove that she was not using any narcotics or alcohol. After several violations, the defendant argued that at least two of her positive drug tests were the result of a single incident of drug usage, thus that it was unfair for the court to use both tests against her when finding her guilty of the violation. The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately affirmed her original guilty conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was originally convicted of distribution of cocaine in 2009 and sentenced to three years in prison with an additional three years of suspension, conditioned upon good behavior and completion of probation. Several years later, the court determined that the defendant had violated the terms of her suspension, and she was again convicted, this time of forging a public record. The defendant was sentenced to additional time in prison (one year) as well as additional suspension, conditioned upon the completion of probation (ten years).

During this time, the court again discovered that the defendant had violated her probation by overdosing on narcotics. She was re-suspended and ordered to complete drug court. For a while, the defendant successfully provided negative drug screens as a part of her duties to the drug court; however, on June 2, 2020, the defendant overdosed on heroin. Three days later, she tested positive again for cocaine.

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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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