In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant challenged the lower court’s order subjecting him to three years and seven months of incarceration after an alleged violation of his probation agreement. According to the defendant, the trial court was wrong to consider certain evidence relating to a 2017 case in which he was involved. If the trial court had not improperly relied on this evidence, said the defendant, the outcome and sentencing would have been different. On appeal, the higher court reviewed the defendant’s argument and ultimately affirmed the lower court’s decision.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in February 2017. He was sentenced to twenty years of incarceration with eighteen years and seven months suspended, provided he could show “good behavior” for the entire twenty years. In March 2021, however, the trial court convicted the defendant of a new crime, possession of a firearm. Because this conviction qualified as a violation of the defendant’s probation terms, the court revoked the defendant’s suspended sentences and ordered him to three years and seven months of active incarceration.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the court unfairly weighed the evidence against him when making a decision in his case. For example, the court had not properly considered the defendant’s mother’s testimony; she took the stand during her son’s trial to explain to the court that the defendant had become very active in the community and that he was “trying to be a different person.” She emphasized that her son now worked with kids in his spare time and that he should not be sent to prison because he desperately wanted to spend time with his children.
The trial court, however, also considered evidence of the defendant’s convictions and previous arrests when deciding whether or not to modify the defendant’s sentence. The Commonwealth emphasized that the defendant had been found with a firearm when he was charged with the drug offense in 2017, thus making this second conviction a more serious crime. According to the defendant, this evidence was irrelevant since he was later acquitted of the 2017 firearms charge. The court of appeals, however, ended up weighing the evidence of the firearm along with other evidence against the defendant, and ultimately decided that the defendant should in fact be actively incarcerated.
Because the court of appeals decided that the lower court had properly weighed the evidence for and against the defendant, the defendant’s appeal was denied. He was thus ordered to three years and seven months of active incarceration.
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