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Articles Posted in Search and Seizure

Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Virginia drug case involving a defendant’s motion to suppress drugs that were recovered by police under the driver’s seat of a car he occupied. The defendant claimed that the officers’ search of the car violated his constitutional rights. However, the court disagreed, affirming his conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, officers received a call for a “disorderly situation” involving two males and one female. The caller told the 911 operator that one of the people had a gun.

When officers arrived on the scene, they saw two vehicles, parked facing one another. Officers parked on the street, and walked towards the vehicle. As they approached the white car, they saw the defendant in the driver’s seat. When he looked up, he immediately lunged towards the floorboard for a few seconds before getting out of the vehicle.

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Recently a state appellate court issued a decision in a defendant’s appeal regarding statements he made to police prior to his arrest in a Virginia assault case. The case arose when police questioned the defendant about his involvement in a shooting while he was receiving treatment for a gunshot wound at a hospital. Hospital staff contacted police after admitting the man for a gunshot wound. Initially, detectives were unsure whether the defendant was a victim or a perpetrator. There were four detectives and a security guard present while two detectives questioned the defendant about his involvement. During questioning, the defendant’s family member arrived and remained in the room.

Additionally, hospital staff continued to provide medical treatment and collect identification and insurance information from the defendant. Following the questioning, the detective went to another hospital to interview two shooting victims who were believed to be involved in the incident. At that point, they discovered that the defendant was the perpetrator. After the defendant was discharged from the hospital, detectives escorted him to the police department, advised him of his Miranda rights, and arrested him. On appeal, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements he made to the detectives at the hospital. He argued that his statements were made in the absence of a Miranda warning.

Under Virginia law, police must advise anyone accused in a criminal case of their Miranda rights before conducting a police interrogation. However, Miranda warnings are unnecessary when the interviewee’s freedom has not been restricted in a way that amounts to being “in custody.” There are various factors that courts use to determine whether a suspect was in custody. These factors include, how the person was summoned to the police, the neutrality of the surroundings, the number of officers present, the degree of physical restraint, the duration and character of the interrogation, and the extent to which the interviewee believed the police found them culpable.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia drug crime case discussing whether the arresting officer legally stopped the defendant’s vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that the stop was illegal, and ordered the suppression of all evidence recovered as a result. The case illustrates when an officer’s mistake can result in the suppression of evidence.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving in the right-hand lane on Route 360. As he approached an intersection, the defendant changed lanes into the center lane. In doing so, he crossed a single, solid-white line indicating the beginning of the intersection. There were two other cars on the road at the time, but neither was directly behind the defendant.

A police officer was traveling about 100 feet behind the defendant, when he observed the defendant’s lane change. Believing that the Virginia law prohibits a driver from crossing a solid-white line when changing lanes, the officer pulled the defendant over. The officer recovered drugs as a result of the traffic stop.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia gun possession case, requiring the court to review the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress a gun that was found under the seat of the car he was driving. Ultimately, the court concluded that the facts surrounding the car stop, as well as the information the officers had at the time, failed to justify the officers’ protective sweep of the vehicle.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers pulled over the defendant due to a burnt-out fog light. When the officers approached, they asked if there were any weapons in the car. The defendant told them that the car was his girlfriend’s, but that there were not weapons he knew of. When asked, the defendant declined to give consent to search the vehicle, explaining that it was not his car. However, the defendant offered to call his girlfriend to ask her if she was willing to give consent. While one officer was interacting with the defendant, the other looked up a Department of Corrections alert indicating the defendant may be a member of the Crips gang. However, the officer did not convey this information to his partner at the time.

After the defendant refused to consent to a search, one of the officers told him to get out of the car so that he could perform a protective sweep of the vehicle. The defendant complied. The protective sweep revealed a gun under the driver’s seat.

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In a recent opinion, a Virginia appellate court upheld a trial court’s decision not to suppress evidence the defendant claimed to be the product of an illegal search and seizure. This decision provides valuable insight on a third-party’s ability to consent to the search of another’s property under Virginia criminal law.

According to the court’s opinion, the case involved the seizure of drugs, cash, and ammunition from an apartment. The apartment belonged to a woman who had called the police on the defendant, who was her boyfriend. When the police arrived the defendant falsely identified himself, so the officers placed him under arrest. The police then asked the defendant’s girlfriend whom the apartment belonged to. She replied that she was the sole lessee and gave the officers permission to search the apartment.

When the officers got inside the apartment, they found a pile of bags in the foyer, which the girlfriend identified as belonging to the defendant. The officers searched the bags and found more than $14,000 in cash. The officers also searched a red varsity jacket belonging to the defendant, and found an unmarked bottle containing several dozen pills. When the officers searched the rest of the apartment they found a purple suitcase with more than a dozen pounds of marijuana and a safe, which was later found to contain additional cash and several rounds of 9mm ammunition.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia gun case discussing the inevitable discovery rule, which allows the admission of evidence that was otherwise illegally obtained. The justification for the rule is that, even without a police officer’s illegal actions, the evidence at issue would have eventually been discovered through legal means.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, two police officers stopped a car because it had no license plates on the front or rear of the vehicle. Initially, the officers did not notice any indications that there was contraband in the car. The officers took the defendant’s license back to their car to run it for warrants. During this time, the two officers could be heard discussing ways they could search the defendant’s car. One officer suggested they ask for consent, and that if the defendant refused permission, then “there’s definitely something in that ******* car!”

The defendant’s license came back, showing he had a warrant. One officer pumped his fist in a “yes!” motion and explained that they could search the area immediately around the defendant as a search incident to the arrest. The other officer corrected the first officer, stating that they could search the whole car because the car would need to be towed, and they would need to conduct an inventory search.

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Earlier this month, the state’s high court issued a written opinion in a Virginia homicide case involving the defendant’s challenge to the manner in which the police obtained the evidence that resulted in his conviction for murder. Ultimately, the court concluded that the police officers’ actions in entering the defendant’s home were reasonable, based on the “emergency aid” exception to the Fourth Amendment.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a man received a text from his brother, the defendant, explaining that he had recently been struggling and that he was about to join their deceased mother. The defendant’s brother tried to get ahold hold of the defendant with little success, and eventually called the police to the defendant’s home.

The defendant’s brother explained his concern and showed the police the text message his brother had sent him. Police approached the defendant’s door and knocked. The defendant answered, but shortly after, police began to hear a “gargling sound mixed with some coughing and moaning, like pain.” Police asked to enter, but there was no response.

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