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Virginia Court Denies Defendant’s Request to Suppress Drug Evidence Found During Officers’ Search of Her Home

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.

Thirty minutes later, the officers successfully obtained a search warrant. They subsequently searched the home and found drugs and drug paraphernalia inside.

The Decision

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the drug evidence found in the home, arguing that the officers did not have legal grounds to conduct the search. When the court denied the defendant’s motion, she promptly appealed.

On appeal, the court considered whether or not the officers reasonably entered the defendant’s home. Importantly, the court noticed that the officers’ reasoning in their request for their warrant was that they smelled marijuana and wanted to investigate the situation. The smell of marijuana, however, was coming from the defendant and from one other person on the scene – the officers had not smelled any drugs in the house itself, only on the bodies of the people involved. Because the smell was not actually coming from the home, the judge issuing the warrant should not have agreed to let them search the property.

It was also true, said the court, that the judge issuing the original warrant did not intentionally issue a wrongful warrant. It was simply a miscommunication between the officers and the judge that caused the judge to incorrectly grant the warrant request, and the judge had acted in good faith without any intent of causing harm. Because of this fact, the higher court concluded that it would be unreasonable to reverse the lower court’s ruling. The court thus rejected the defendant’s appeal.

Have You Been Charged with a Drug Crime in Virginia?

If you are in the process of fighting drug charges in Virginia, give us a call at Robinson Law, PLLC. Our office is prepared to offer high-quality, experienced, aggressive representation that protects your rights when you need it most. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at (703) 844-3746

 

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