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.
When a defendant violates her or his conditions of probation in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the violation falls into one of two categories: it can be a “technical” violation, or it can be a “special” violation. A technical violation is a violation that is covered by a list of ten specific violations on an enumerated list provided by the Commonwealth. In essence, a special violation is any other kind of violation.
Here, the court decided that the defendant’s violation was special, not technical. Because the violation was special, she could be sentenced to more time in prison than if the violation was found to be technical. The defendant disagreed with this assertion and argued that the violation was actually technical, and that her sentence was unfair as a result.
On appeal, the higher court examined the record and agreed with the defendant. In looking at the language of the statute in question, the court decided that the defendant’s violation of her probation conditions was technical. By imposing a sentence based on a special violation, the court sentenced her unfairly. The higher court thus reversed the court’s order, and the defendant’s case went back to the lower court to be re-examined in this light.
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