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Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

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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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 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 drug case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal of his guilty conviction was denied. In his appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence used against him at trial was legally insufficient, given that the trial court considered evidence of a prior conviction as support for the sentencing in this second offense case. Disagreeing with the defendant, the court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with the intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl as a second offense. The defendant’s first offense occurred in 2001 when he was convicted of possession with the intent to distribute imitation cocaine.

At the defendant’s trial for this second charge, he filed a motion asking the court to exclude evidence of the first offense. The defendant knew that if the court included evidence of the prior offense, he would potentially receive an enhanced penalty for the second offense. According to the defendant, the two crimes were not substantially similar, so they should not be reviewed in the same trial. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion and ended up convicting the defendant of a second offense.

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In a recent drug case in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the higher court affirmed the lower court’s decision to find a husband and wife guilty of distribution and possession of drugs. After the defendants were found guilty, they appealed their verdict, but the court rejected their arguments and affirmed the original verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the two defendants in this case were a married couple who were convicted of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a variety of controlled substances. They were also found guilty of distribution and possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of methamphetamine, which is a separate violation under Virginia law. One of the defendants, the husband, was convicted by himself of 16 additional counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute. After the jury issued their guilty verdict, the judge in the case ordered the defendants to forfeit any remaining drugs they possessed and pay a large fine to the court.

The Decision

The defendants appealed their guilty convictions, hoping to minimize the amount of money they were forced to pay as part of their sentence. One of the defendants’ main arguments was that the trial court should not have been willing to accept evidence of firearms and ammunition that police officers found while searching their home. According to the defendants, this evidence did not have anything to do with the drug crimes themselves, and all it did was bias the jury unnecessarily and unfairly.

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