Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals, which vacated Defendant’s sentence for DUI, third offense, and remanded the case to the trial court for sentencing on DUI, second offense. The court of appeals determined that the Commonwealth was collaterally estopped from using a valid DUI conviction as a predicate offense for sentencing enhancement because, in an unrelated case, a general district court previously ruled that the Commonwealth could not use the same DUI conviction as a predicate offense for sentencing enhancement. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s order of conviction on DUI, third or subsequent offense, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the doctrine of collateral estoppel applied to preclude the Commonwealth from using the DUI conviction at issue as a predicate offense. View "Commonwealth v. Leonard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court insofar as it imposed a sentence upon Defendant exceeding the punishment authorized by the General Assembly in Va. Code 18.2-53.1. Graves was convicted of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, in violation of Va. Code 18.2-53.1, among other crimes. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to five years’ imprisonment with two years suspended for the crime of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court sentenced him in excess of the statutory maximum. The Supreme Court agreed and vacated the two-year suspended sentence and remanded the case for entry of a new sentencing order, holding that the sentence exceeded the punishment authorized by the General Assembly in section 18.2-53.1. View "Graves v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals rejecting Defendant’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to prove she committed the offense of using a cell phone for “purposes of procuring or promoting” one of her eleven-year-old students for activity that would violate Va. Code 18.2-370 (taking indecent liberties with children). Defendant, an elementary school teacher, argued on appeal that the Commonwealth’s evidence was insufficient to prove she committed the offense. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) no third-party communication is required for a violation of Va. Code 18.2-374.3(B); and (2) a rational fact-finder could have determined beyond a reasonable doubt that, in violation of section 18.2-374.3(B), the purpose of Defendant’s communication was to move forward with a scheme of taking indecent liberties with the victim as proscribed under section 18.2-370. View "Dietz v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the circuit court sentencing Defendant to serve a prison term before beginning his involuntary civil commitment. Defendant pleaded guilty to an offense committed in July and not guilty by reason of insanity to offenses committed in August. The circuit court accepted Defendant’s pleas. The court sentenced Defendant to five years’ incarceration for the July offense and ordered that he be involuntary committed on the August offenses. The court sent Defendant to serve his prison term for the July offense before Defendant’s involuntary civil commitment for the August offenses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by sequencing Defendant’s prison term and involuntary civil commitment as it did. View "Williams v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The court held (1) assuming, without deciding, that the trial court erred by refusing to admit testimony regarding the victim’s alleged threats, the error was harmless; (2) the trial court did not err by excluding testimony regarding the victim’s alleged acts of violence; (3) Defendant waived his argument on appeal that the trial court erred in refusing to set aside the verdict due to false testimony; and (4) Defendant was barred from arguing that a statement made by the Commonwealth during closing argument was inappropriate. View "Carter v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A rational fact-finder could reasonably find that the totality of the circumstances proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant was the criminal agent in each of the offenses charged in this case. Defendant was convicted of two counts of breaking and entering and two counts of grand larceny. At the close of the Commonwealth’s case-in-chief and again at the close of all of the evidence Defendant moved to strike the evidence, arguing that the Commonwealth was not entitled to the inference that he committed the larcenies and burglaries. The circuit court denied the motions, finding the evidence sufficient despite the circumstantial nature of the evidence. The court of appeals reversed all four convictions, concluding (1) the burglary and larceny inferences were inapplicable because the evidence did not prove that Defendant had exclusive dominion and control over the stolen property, and (2) without the benefit of those inferences, the evidence was insufficient. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the circuit court’s order of conviction, holding that the court of appeals erred in reversing the convictions. View "Commonwealth v. Moseley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding, and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony. After unsuccessfully appealing to the court of appeals, Defendant petitioned the Supreme Court for an appeal, asserting eight assignments of error. The Supreme Court awarded an appeal limited to two assignments of error challenging Instruction 7, which instructed the jury on the definition of intent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the jury instruction clearly and correctly stated the applicable law and covered all of the issues fairly raised by the evidence. View "Howsare v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana. After both the conviction order and the sentencing order were entered, Defendant asked the trial court to reconsider the felony conviction. The trial court eventually dismissed Defendant’s motion to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor, concluding that it lacked the discretion to reduce the charge. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err in affirming the trial court’s ruling that it lacked the authority to amend the conviction after more than twenty-one days had passed since entry of the conviction and sentencing orders. View "Hackett v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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An indictment returned by a grand jury as a true bill in open court is not invalid when the order recording the indictment was not entered until after the trial on the indictment and no objection was made to the indictment until after trial. The court of appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions for assault and battery and abduction, concluding that Defendant was properly indicted even where no order recording the presentation of the indictment in open court had been entered prior to Defendant’s trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there is no time requirement for entry of an order recording the return of an indictment in open court; and (2) therefore, the circuit court’s delay in entering the order recording the grand jury’s action did not render Defendant’s indictment invalid. Further, Defendant waived his right to object to the indictment. View "Epps v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The court of appeals reversed Defendant’s conviction for possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, third or subsequent offense, concluding that the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s pretrial motion to suppress evidence obtained after a search of Defendant’s person and that the error was not harmless. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the conviction, holding that the alleged trial court error, if error at all, was harmless as a matter of law because a rational fact-finder, beyond a reasonable doubt, would have found Defendant guilty absent the error. View "Commonwealth v. White" on Justia Law