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In a recent opinion, a Virginia appellate court upheld a trial court’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion to strike and reconsider despite the defendant claiming that additional elements are required to prove marital rape. The decision provides valuable insight into marital rape law in Virginia.

According to the court’s opinion, the case involved a married couple who had a rocky relationship but shared a bed together. The wife alleged that while she was sleeping one night, she woke up to find her husband (the defendant) on top of her and that, despite her protests, he engaged in non-consensual intercourse with her. The next day after work, the wife reported the rape incident to the police and was examined at a hospital where the examiner took photos of the bruises on her leg. The defendant was questioned by police, and at first, denied having intercourse with her within the past month. However, the defendant’s DNA evidence was found. Additionally, the defendant had a scratch on his shoulder. The wife also had sent the defendant a text the day after the incident asking why he did that to her.

At trial, the defendant claimed that his wife initiated the sexual intercourse. Additionally, the defendant apologized to his wife through text for whatever it was that he did, testifying in court that he knew he did something to upset her. Despite this, the defendant argued that the evidence was not sufficient enough to prove rape. The trial court found the defendant guilty of rape based on the wife’s credible testimony. The defendant filed a motion to reconsider, arguing that this court had to follow the cases previously decided by the court, cases which had determined that there were additional elements required before one could be convicted of rape when the victim is a spouse.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia case involving a woman convicted of driving on a suspended license. The appeal involves the lower court’s decision preventing the defendant from pursuing an appeal of her conviction. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant’s appeal was proper and that the lower court should not have precluded her from bringing her appeal.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was issued a summons on July 15, 2016, indicating that she was charged with driving on a suspended license. It was her fifth offense. The woman was convicted and filed an appeal with the circuit court. Defendants convicted in the district court have an automatic right to a new trial in circuit court.

In her appeal, the defendant raised several challenges to her conviction. However, the circuit court rejected each of her claims, and she was again convicted. The defendant then filed another appeal, this time to the appellate court. She referenced the circuit court case in her filing, naming a county official as the “appellee,” which is the party who is supposed to respond to the appeal.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia gun case discussing whether a detective’s warrantless search of a phone violated the defendant’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Ultimately, the court concluded that the search was legal and that the motion to suppress was rightfully denied by the lower court. The case illustrates when evidence obtained from a detective’s warrantless search can still be used in the trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, while attempting to retrieve his phone from inside the restaurant, the defendant approached a waitress in a very hostile manner. A private security guard stepped in front of the defendant, and the defendant eventually urged his friend to grab a gun from the car. The security guard drew his own weapon and asked the individual to drop his firearm. The individual put down the gun. Defendant then picked up the firearm and began firing his gun. The security guard fired back and struck the vehicle, prompting the defendant and his friend to drive away. The defendant did not return.

A detective later recovered a cell phone at the restaurant and without a search warrant, the detective went into the phone settings to find the phone’s identification serial numbers. The detective did not search any other part of the phone. Using the serial number, the security guard was able to find the name and photograph of the defendant. The defendant had an additional cell phone, which the detective used to track the defendant’s location and arrest him.

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Traditionally, when a defendant seeks to challenge the legality of his arrest, he does so in a motion to suppress. In a motion to suppress, the court hears evidence about the recovery of the evidence in question and determines whether the state or federal constitution requires the suppression of the evidence.

However, in a recent case before the Supreme Court of Virginia, the court reversed the conviction of a defendant who was arrested for DUI. The facts of the case are straightforward: police attempted to stop a boater, who sped away and eventually ran ashore. The boater got out and ran. Law enforcement eventually caught him and ultimately charged him with operating a boat under the influence. The defendant refused a breath or blood test.

The defendant did not file a pre-trial motion to suppress. Instead, at trial, the defendant attempted to argue that his arrest was unlawful. However, the prosecution objected, claiming that the defendant waived his right to challenge the legality of his arrest by not filing a motion to suppress. The trial court agreed, prevented the defendant from challenging the lawfulness of his arrest, and then convicted him. The defendant appealed.

A defendant recently appealed his Virginia conviction for possession of marijuana and various firearm offenses. The accused filed multiple motions to suppress, arguing that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the residence. On appeal, the court reviewed the evidence the defendant presented at his suppression hearing.

According to the record, police officers discovered the defendant’s location and attempted to serve outstanding arrest warrants. The home belonged to the mother of the defendant’s minor daughter; the defendant did not own or rent the home. When the defendant did not open the door for law enforcement, the officers entered the residence. The officers did not find the accused, but after detecting the smell of marijuana, they searched the residence and found him hiding near a shed.

The defendant argued that because he did not live at the home, the officers could not “enter and search the home of a third party” under a warrant for the defendant. The Commonwealth argued that they believed the accused lived at the home with the mother of his child. In the alternative, the Commonwealth argued that the defendant could not assert the “vicarious Fourth Amendment” rights of a third party.

Recently, the state supreme court issued an opinion in a case involving a man who allegedly fired a gun while celebrating the 4th of July. The case required the court to determine if the defendant’s statements to a detective were taken in violation of his constitutional rights. Ultimately, the court dodged the question at issue, finding that even if the lower court’s ruling was incorrect, any error stemming from the decision was harmless.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police received a call reporting gunshots on the 4th of July. Upon responding to the scene, officers spoke with two witnesses. One of the witnesses provided the officers with time-stamped video surveillance footage showing a man carrying a small black object in his hand.

Based on the footage, officers arrested the defendant and took him down to the station for questioning. While there, the defendant asked a detective, “Hey, can you call my wife to tell her to call my lawyer for me?” The detective indicated he would call the defendant’s wife. However, before he did, another detective came into the room and read the defendant his Miranda warnings.

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The United States Supreme Court recently decided a case that may have a profound impact on many Virginia criminal cases. Although the case is civil in nature, it impacts state and federal search and seizure law.

The case arose following a 2015 altercation between a woman and her husband. The wife was concerned for her husband’s safety after he made disturbing remarks during an argument. In response, she called the police, and they offered to escort him to a local hospital for evaluation. The husband agreed on the condition that the police would not confiscate his handguns. The police agreed but then confiscated the handguns. The man filed a civil lawsuit against the police department after they failed to return the handguns.

A federal appeals court upheld the handgun seizure under the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment. The appeals court reasoned that law enforcement officers are “masters of all emergencies” and, as such, they need some “elbow room” to engage determine the appropriate action in these situations. Following that decision, the man petitioned the Supreme Court to review the matter. The Supreme Court was tasked with answering whether the “community caretaking” exception extends to police officer’s entry into a private citizen’s home.

The Supreme Court of Virginia recently issued an opinion overturning an accused’s Virginia conviction for operating a vessel while under the influence. According to the record, the Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC) noticed the accused operating his boat without a white running light. When the VMRC attempted to stop the man, he accelerated, ran the vessel into the ground, and jumped out. After reaching the accused, the VMRC arrested him for operating a vessel under the influence. The accused refused to take a breath or blood test.

At trial, the man attempted to introduce evidence regarding the lawfulness of his arrest; however, the lower court found that he had forfeited his right because the law required him to do so before trial. Following a conviction, the accused appealed under Virginia Code § 29.1-738.2, contending that the trial court erred in denying him the ability to present evidence to support his challenge to the lawfulness of his arrest.

Under Virginia law, individuals who operate a boat consent to provide a blood sample if the person is arrested within three hours of the offense. In this case, the accused argues that this implied consent statute only applies if it is predicated upon a lawful arrest. In reviewing the matter, the court looked to prior case law which limited the application of the implied consent law to situations involving a valid arrest.

Under the Fourth Amendment, individuals have the right “to be secure in their houses…against unreasonable searches and seizures.” As the doctrine currently stands, inquiries involving whether a search is constitutional requires the court to look at the “totality of the circumstances.” This vague language significantly impacts those charged with Virginia criminal offenses. Most jurisprudence scholars agree that this inquiry leaves courts with vast and unpredictable discretion in determining the rights of one accused of a crime. This inquiry is most relevant when one accused of a Virginia crime argues that police engaged in an unlawful search of their car or home.

The Supreme Court ruling in Cady v. Dombrowski held that law enforcement may search a vehicle without obtaining a warrant in some situations. This exception applies under the “community caretaking” function, and the ruling was explicit that the exception only extends to motor vehicles and not people’s homes. However, officers in some jurisdictions improperly invoke the community caretaking exception to justify warrantless entries into homes. As a result of the overreaching, the Supreme Court is now tasked with clarifying the original meaning of the right to “be secure” and address the reach of the community caretaking exception.

In Caniglia v. Strom, a couple was arguing in their home when the husband picked up his unloaded handgun and stated to his wife, “why don’t you just shoot me and put me out of my misery.” The following day, after spending the night at a motel, the woman contacted the police and asked them to escort her home. The husband agreed to a psychiatric evaluation after the police assured him they would not confiscate his handguns. After the man was admitted to a psychiatric facility, the police entered his home and seized his handguns. The officers returned the gun after the man sued; however, they argued that the community caretaking exception permitted their seizure.

The Supreme Court of the United States recently issued an opinion in Torres v. Madrid, finding that the “application of physical force to the body of a person with the intent to restrain is a seizure even if the person does not submit and is not subdued.” The ruling will likely have a significant impact on Virginia criminal appeals involving Fourth Amendment violations. The case arose when state police officers approached a vehicle that was in a parking spot with its engine on. When the officers attempted to speak to the driver, the driver sped away-believing the officers to be carjackers. In response, the officers fired their weapons, striking the victim twice. The woman switched vehicles and drove to a hospital. The woman was arrested the following day, and she pleaded no contest to three criminal offenses.

The woman filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers, arguing that the shooting was an unlawful seizure and a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. The lower court concluded that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The court reasoned that the officers did not “seize” Torres when the shooting occurred, and without the requisite “seizure,” a Fourth Amendment violation could not exist.

Under the Fourth Amendment, the constitution grants individuals the right to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The Supreme Court explained that historically seizure inquiries involve the common law rules regarding arrest-which is the seizure of a person. Further, the court opined that physical force to the body of a person with the intent to restrain is an attempted arrest, even if the person does not yield.

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