Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court entering judgment upon the jury's verdict in favor of the estate of Jeffrey Tyree on a battery count but for the defense on a gross negligence count, holding that the circuit court erred in declining to grant the motion to strike filed by Detective Bradley Colas.Colas, a police officer, shot and killed Tyree. Tyree's estate brought this action against Colas and another police officer, Officer Nigal Tuft-Williams, alleging gross negligence and battery. During trial, the trial court granted Tuft-Williams' motion to strike and denied Colas' motions to strike. After the jury found for the estate on the battery count Colas appealed, challenging the denial of his motion to strike. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court erred in declining to grant Colas' motion to strike. View "Colas v. Tyree" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's petition seeking to expunge a felony driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge from his record, holding that the circuit court did not err.Appellant was arrested and charged with felony DWI. When it was determined that Appellant did not have a prior felony DWI conviction the arrest warrant was subsequently amended to charge Appellant with a misdemeanor DWI. Appellant was found guilty of the misdemeanor DWI. While his appeal was pending, Appellant filed a petition seeking to expunge the felony DWI charge from his record. The trial court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the amendment to the arrest warrant did not render the felony DWI charge "otherwise dismissed" for the purposes of Va. Code 19.2-392.2. View "Forness v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant's conviction for carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated under Va. Code 18.2-308.012, holding that, under the facts of this case, Defendant did not "carry" the handgun, as contemplated by the statute.A police officer performed a traffic stop of a vehicle seen driving "erratically." Defendant, the driver, provided the officer With a valid weapons permit after informing the officer that a gun was next to him in a zipped bag on his front passenger seat. Defendant was arrested for driving under the influence and subsequently found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated, driving under the influence, and impersonating a police officer. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction under section 18.2-308.012, holding (1) "carry" within the meaning of section 18.2-308.012 is limited to physically carrying the handgun on one's person such that it moves when he moves; and (2) Defendant did not "carry" the handgun under the statute. View "Morgan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed three rulings by the trial court in a pending criminal case in these consolidated appeals, holding that the trial court erred in barring public access to a pretrial bail hearing, by keeping certain motions and exhibits under seal, and by finding that the City of Newport News lacked standing to oppose any public access to sealed documents that the City had previously produced in response to a subpoena.The underlying case involved a murder indictment and ancillary charges against a Newport News police officer. Two newspaper publishers and a reporter filed an appeal challenging rulings barring access to the pretrial bail hearing and keeping motions and exhibits under seal. The City challenged the ruling that the City lacked standing to oppose public access to the sealed documents it produced in response to the subpoena. The Supreme Court reversed all three holdings, holding that the trial court erred as to all three rulings. View "Daily Press, LLC v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court finding Appellant in violation of probation and sentencing him to serve the balance of his previously suspended sentence, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Appellant argued that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to sentence him to serve the balance of his previously suspended sentence because the period of suspension had lapsed before his probation violation. The court of appeals disagreed, upholding the circuit court's judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court's order was consistent with, not violative of, the revocation power authorized by Va. Code 19.2-306(A). View "Hill v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of three counts of computer solicitation of a minor, first offense, and two counts of computer solicitation of a minor, second offense, holding that any presumed error in excluding certain expert testimony was harmless.In his appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred by excluding the testimony of Dr. Maurice Fisher, which Defendant intended to use in support of his entrapment defense. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the testimony did not express an opinion on the ultimate issue of Defendant's mental state at the time of the alleged offense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the evidence of Defendant's prurient interest was overwhelming, and therefore, the testimony would not have influenced the jury or would have had but slight effect. View "Commonwealth v. Kilpatrick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for rape, holding that Defendant did not suffer any violation of his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the United States Constitution.On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecution violated his right to confrontation by failing to produce as a witness a police officer who translated for a police detective at the crime scene. At trial, the Commonwealth offered the testimony of a different police officer who, separately, translated the exchange between Defendant and the detective. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no constitutional requirement for the officer at issue to be confronted at trial. View "Cortez-Rivas v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the revocation of Defendant's deferred disposition and conviction for possession of heroin due to Defendant's failure to pay court costs, holding that there was no error.Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to possession of heroin. The agreement specified that Defendant would pay all court costs and the costs of any programs ordered by Defendant's probation officer. The circuit court deferred its finding that the facts were sufficient for a finding of guilt for one year subject to the terms and conditions in the plea agreement. The court further ordered that Defendant pay the costs of prosecution. The circuit court subsequently revoked Defendant's deferred disposition and adjudicated him guilty for failure to pay his court costs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err. View "Smallwood v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and reinstated that conviction, holding that the court of appeals erred in reversing Defendant's conviction for conspiracy.In reversing Defendant's conviction, the court of appeals ruled that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying two proffered jury instructions regarding the single-buyer/seller relationship exception to conspiracy liability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the proffered jury instructions concerning a single-buyer/seller relationship. View "Commonwealth v. Richard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of battering a police officer under Va. Code 18.2-57(C), holding that Defendant's contentions on appeal were without merit.Defendant was charged with assault and battery on a police officer, a felony. At trial, Defendant argued that she had used force to expel a trespasser, and therefore, her use of force was not unlawful. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the convictions was supported by sufficient evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Defendant's use of force was not justified by the law of trespass. View "Carter v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law