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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant failed to successfully appeal his conviction of firearm possession. Originally, a trial court found that the defendant knowingly possessed a 9-mm handgun in his bedroom; on appeal, the defendant argued that he had no idea the handgun was actually on his bedroom floor. Given the facts of the case, the court disagreed with the defendant and affirmed his guilty conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case had been previously convicted of statutory burglary, a crime that made it illegal for him to knowingly possess any firearm or ammunition for a firearm. One day, in late 2020, three police officers came to the defendant’s home when they received reports regarding a potential assault by the defendant on his girlfriend. The defendant’s girlfriend, who lived with him in the apartment, consented to the police searching the residence when they arrived.

Upon searching the defendant’s room, one of the officers found a box of 9-mm ammunition on top of the dresser, in plain view from the doorway. The officer also found competitive-fighting paraphernalia, men’s clothing that led her to believe the defendant was actively living in the room, and a 9-mm pistol sitting on the floor.

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In a recent firearm case coming out of a federal court in the southeast of the United States, the defendant’s appeal was successful. According to the defendant, the sentence he faced for a firearm offense was unnecessarily long, and the court should have calculated his incarceration time differently. The higher court agreed with the defendant, concluding that his sentence was incorrectly calculated and that the case should go back to the lower court so that the court could calculate the defendant’s sentence again.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with one count of knowingly possessing a firearm and ammunition. Instead of taking this case to trial, the defendant pled guilty and attended a sentencing hearing, in which a United States Probation Office would determine how long the defendant would face incarceration due to this crime.

At this hearing, the defendant learned that he qualified for a mandatory minimum sentence because of a federal law called the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). This Act makes defendants in firearms cases face longer sentences if they have been convicted of certain other crimes at least three times. In this case, the defendant had been previously convicted three times with possession of marijuana. Specifically, he had possessed marijuana with intent to distribute in the proximity of a school. Because of these convictions, the Probation Office made his sentence longer than it would have been otherwise by referencing the ACCA.

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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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As we have noted on our blog in the past, the Commonwealth of Virginia is known for having some of the strictest DWI and DUI laws in the United States. Given this reality, it is crucial to be aware of the DUI penalties in Virginia so that if you ever find yourself facing DUI charges, you are aware of your rights under the law.

In Virginia, a person is legally considered operating under the influence of alcohol if that person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher. Even if a driver’s BAC is lower than .08, though, if an officer decides the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired, it is possible that he or she could face the same penalties regardless. DUI penalties apply whether a driver is operating a car, boat, or watercraft.

First v. Subsequent Offenses

In Virginia, the punishment for a first DUI offense differs from that of a subsequent DUI offense. If a driver is found guilty of driving under the influence and it is his or her first time with a DUI conviction, the punishment involves a minimum $250 fine as well as driver’s license revocation for one year.

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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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Tobacco laws and taxes vary by state, and as a result, most states require cigarettes and other tobacco products to bear a state tax stamp that proves the appropriate taxes have been paid on the product before it can be sold legally in the state. Because prices and taxes can vary so much by state, smugglers can buy cigarettes where they are cheaper and traffic them to sell in a state where they are more expensive for a large profit; however, such activity is a felony under Virginia law. The Virginia Court of Appeals recently affirmed the conviction of a man on charges that he smuggled 4670 packs of unstamped cigarettes discovered during a routine traffic stop.

In the recently decided case, the defendant was pulled over by a Virginia State Police officer on suspicion of having illegally tinted windows. After the stop, police determined that neither the driver nor passenger of the vehicle defendant was traveling in had a valid driver’s license. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the arresting officer noticed what appeared to be drug residue in the defendant’s vehicle and called a canine unit to assist with a search. The canine unit flagged the vehicle for possible drug material, which led the officer to perform a search. Although the search of the vehicle did not uncover any illegal drug material, nearly 10,000 illegal cigarettes were found, resulting in the arrest of the defendant on smuggling charges.

Before trial, the defendant attempted to have the evidence against him suppressed, claiming that the traffic stop was completed by the time the canine unit arrived. He also claimed that because no illegal drugs were found by the canine search, the signal and search were not appropriate. The trial court rejected the defendant’s arguments, finding that the arrival of the canine unit was part of the traffic stop and a reasonable result of the officer noticing what appeared to be drug material in the vehicle. Furthermore, the prosecution noted that because there were no licensed drivers to remove the defendant’s vehicle from the side of the road, the cigarettes would have been found even without the canine unit, as the officers would inventory the vehicle after issuing the defendant citations for driving without a license and illegal window tint.

In a recent opinion from a Virginia court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his criminal convictions of rape, forcible sodomy, abduction, and the use of a firearm in the commission of these felonies. Originally, a grand jury indicted the defendant of all of the above charges based on his interactions with a woman he met in 2017. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty. Rejecting this argument, the higher court affirmed the defendant’s convictions.

Facts of the Case

The defendant first came into contact with the victim in this case in 2017, when he approached her at a carwash to offer her some landscaping work. The victim was homeless at the time and was looking for ways to earn money, as her primary income came through cleaning and detailing vehicles that came through the carwash. The victim said yes to the defendant’s offer, and the defendant immediately drove her to his home where he gave her crack cocaine. The victim proceeded to spend the next few days with the defendant, sleeping at his house and following up on his offer to give her landscaping work.

The next couple of days after her arrival, the victim labored for eight hours each day on a large parcel of land, mowing and performing other various landscaping tasks. The defendant did not pay her for her work. At one point, the victim received a package from a friend that included a Bible and several food-related gift cards. The defendant stole all of the items from the victim, allowing her to keep only the Bible.

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In a recent drug case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s motion to suppress was denied. The defendant was caught conducting a drug deal after a confidential informant provided his name and information to a police officer. On appeal, the defendant argued that the informant identified his identity through an unnecessarily suggestive identification method. Disagreeing with this argument, the court denied the appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was arrested for distribution of a Schedule I or II controlled substance after police officers communicated with a confidential informant who set up a drug buy from the defendant. The police officer that testified at trial said that this particular informant agreed to participate after he had been arrested in a similar controlled buy.

Detailing the process through which he caught the defendant, the police officer testified that he first asked the informant to provide the name of a drug dealer in the area. Once the informant provided this name, the officer conducted an investigation to confirm the identity of the person dealing. Next, he showed the informant a photo of the suspect’s face so that the informant could confirm the identity – at this time, the informant saw a photo of the defendant in this case and confirmed that he knew the defendant to be dealing drugs. From that point forward, it was relatively easy for the officer to find the defendant, arranged a controlled buy, and catch the defendant in a deal.

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In a recent opinion from a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal of his DWI conviction was denied. On appeal, the defendant argued that there was not enough evidence to prove that he was driving while intoxicated, and thus that his guilty verdict was unjust. The court disagreed, rejecting the defendant’s challenge and affirming his original conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a State Trooper received a call just after midnight one evening asking him to respond to an accident just down the road. The Trooper quickly arrived at the scene and saw a pickup truck with damage on all sides, leading him to believe that the truck had left the road and rolled over. At the scene, the Trooper saw only the defendant, one witness, and emergency personnel who were responding to the defendant’s injuries.

The defendant was the only person at the scene who was injured. He had blood on his face and he also smelled of alcohol. When the Trooper asked the defendant what had caused the accident, the defendant replied that he did not remember. He only said that he was on his way home from a friend’s house at the time of the crash. The Trooper ran the vehicle through his system and found out that the truck was registered to a female who lived with the defendant. She was not at the scene.

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In a recent opinion coming from a federal court in the southeast, the defendant’s attempt to challenge the length of his sentence was denied. The defendant had been found guilty of distribution of fentanyl, and he argued on appeal that his resulting sentence was unreasonably long. The court disagreed, keeping his original sentence in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was accused of selling drugs to a man who eventually overdosed. The man, who was found unconscious on his bathroom floor, had heroin and fentanyl in his system at the time of his death. Investigators soon learned of the chain of events that led to the man’s death: the defendant in this case had texted the man a few days earlier, bragging that he was in possession of a drug called “China White,” which is a narcotic containing fentanyl. When the defendant told the man about the China White, he bragged that it was very strong and that people were “going out” on the drug.

The man bought drugs from the defendant twice over a period of two days. The second time, the man asked the defendant for only half a gram of the drug, but the defendant encouraged him to purchase a whole gram. After taking the drug, the man overdosed and died immediately. His roommate found him on the floor when she came home from work later in the day.

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