Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals denying Defendant’s appeal from the circuit court’s order revoking twenty years of Defendant’s suspended sentence and resuspending fifteen years after finding that Defendant was in violation of the conditions of his probation, holding that the admission of hearsay evidence in the probation revocation proceeding did not violate Defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Defendant was convicted of rape. After he was released on probation, the circuit court issued a capias for Defendant’s arrest on the ground that he had violated the conditions of his probation. At a probation revocation hearing, the circuit court ruled that certain hearsay evidence was admissible. The circuit court ultimately determined Defendant to be in violation of the conditions of his probation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not violate Defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him. View "Johnson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s sentence of ten years in prison, three years suspended upon certain conditions, imposed in connection with Defendant’s conviction for felony child abuse and neglect, holding that the trial court’s sentencing order, as drafted, did not comply with Virginia law. On appeal, Defendant argued that the sentence imposed by the trial court did not conform to Va. Code 19.2-295 and 19.2-295.2 and improperly extended the maximum sentence fixed by the jury of seven years in prison. In reversing, the Supreme Court held that the court impermissibly lengthened the sentence fixed by the jury from seven years to ten years, which the Virginia Code does not authorize. View "Thomas v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of arson of an occupied dwelling and nine counts of attempted first-degree murder, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress his confession and did not err in denying Defendant’s motions challenging the sufficiency of the evidence of his specific intent to commit murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that his confession, given after he was informed of his Miranda rights, was the product of an intentional and coercive interrogation technique proscribed in Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004) or was otherwise involuntary. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Defendant’s post-Miranda warning inculpatory statements were voluntary, and thus admissible; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to establish Defendant’s specific intent to commit attempted first-degree murder. View "Secret v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant’s conviction for rape, holding that the circuit court’s finding that Defendant’s waiver of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), was knowing and voluntary and that the court’s decision to admit into evidence a recording of Defendant’s interview with police officers was not in error. On appeal, Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress statements he made during the police interrogation. Defendant argued that his statements made to police officers through an interpreter were obtained involuntarily and that he did not make a knowing and intelligent waiver of his rights under Miranda. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme court also affirmed, holding (1) the record supported the circuit court’s finding that Defendant had the requisite level of Spanish comprehension to make a knowing and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that there was an adequate foundation to admit the recording of the interview into evidence. View "Tirado v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress and upholding his convictions for several drug and firearm-related offenses, holding that probable cause existed for the warrantless search of Defendant’s vehicle. Defendant argued in support of his motion to suppress the evidence discovered during the warrantless search of his vehicle that the police lacked probable cause to conduct the search. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant’s furtive movements, nervous demeanor, and possession of a digital scale containing suspected cocaine residue provided the requisite probable cause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts of this case, there was sufficient evidence to establish that the police officer had probable cause to search Defendant’s vehicle because there was a “fair probability” that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found. View "Curley v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that, in dismissing the Commonwealth’s petition to have Troy Lamar Giddens, Sr. civilly committed as a sexually violent predator, the trial court misapplied the relevant statute, Va. Code 37.2-905.1. Moreover, the evidence did not support dismissal. The trial court dismissed the Commonwealth’s petition, concluding that the burden was on the Commonwealth to prove that Giddens was eligible for the sexually violent predator program and that the Commonwealth failed to show that Giddens' score on Static-99, the test designed to assess the recidivism risk of adult male sexual offenders, was scored correctly. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Giddens did not show gross negligence or willful misconduct, which was required for him to prevail under section 37.2-905.1. View "Commonwealth v. Giddens" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences for the capital murder of two individuals within a three-year period in violation of Va. Code 18.2-31(8), holding that the punishments did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In a multi-count indictment, Defendant was charged with the capital murder of Ronald Kirby in 2013 and the capital murder of Ruthanne Lodato in 2014. Both counts relied upon Va. Code 18.2-31(8), which states that the “willful, deliberate and premeditated killing of more than one person within a three-year period” is capital murder. A jury found Defendant guilty of both charges, concluding that he murdered Kirby within three years of Lodato and that he murdered Lodato within three years of murdering Kirby. Prior to sentencing, Defendant argued that punishing him for two capital murder convictions under section 18.2-31(8) would violate double jeopardy. The trial court rejected the double jeopardy argument, convicted Defendant of two counts of capital murder, and imposed two life sentences. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not punished twice for on criminal act because “killing two victims at two different times in two different places constitutes two different criminal acts.” View "Severance v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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At issue was what the phrase “has been previously convicted” means in Va. Code 18.2-57.2(B), which makes assault and battery of a family or household member a felony under certain circumstances. Defendant was convicted of misdemeanor and felony assault and battery of a family or household member for October and December offenses, respectively. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal, Defendant argued that, despite the circuit court’s finding that he was guilty of the October misdemeanor offense, he had not been “convicted” of it within the meaning of section 18.2-57.2(B), and therefore, it could not be used as a predicate offense for his felony conviction. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the court did not need to complete the final phase of adjudication, imposition of sentence or enter a written conviction order memorializing its judgment of conviction for the misdemeanor charge in order to create a predicate conviction within the meaning of the statute; and (2) because the court found Defendant guilty of the misdemeanor charge arising from the October offense, the October offense was properly used as a predicate offense for Defendant’s felony conviction arising from the December offense. View "Lewis v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of Patricia Gerald and her daughter, Tarsha Gerald, with driving while on a suspended license, third or subsequent offense, and perjury arising from testimony they gave in the Albemarle County General District Court. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the Geralds’ perjury convictions; (2) venue for prosecution of the Gerald’ perjury charges was proper in Albemarle County because, even where the perjury was committed in the Albemarle County Courthouse, which was located in the City of Charlottesville, venue for prosecution of crimes committed in the Albemarle County Courthouse is proper in either Albemarle County or the City of Charlottesville; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Tarsha’s conviction for driving while on a suspended license. View "Gerald v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and vacated in part the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to Defendant’s convictions for malicious wounding and use of a firearm during the commission of a malicious wounding and entered judgment reinstating those two convictions. In reversing the two convictions, the court of appeals held that no rational fact-finder could infer that Defendant attacked the victim with a malicious intent to main, disfigure, disable, or kill him during the robbery. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, where the attack actually injured the victim, the evidence supported the reasonable inference that Defendant had the intent to maliciously wound the victim. View "Commonwealth v. Perkins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law