Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, second offense, upon Defendant's conditional guilty plea, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's pretrial motion to suppress. At issue in this case was whether, at the time Defendant was seized by detectives, the detectives had reasonable suspicion to believe that they were about to be assaulted with a weapon. Defendant argued on appeal that the detectives seized him in violation of the reasonable suspicion standard adopted in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, considering the totality of the circumstances, the detectives in this case had the same practical, experience-based concern for their safety as the police officer had in Terry, and therefore, the trial court correctly denied Defendant's motion to suppress. View "Hill v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder, holding that the trial court did not violate the holding of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) by permitting the prosecutor to exercise a peremptory strike of an African-American juror. Defendant's counsel conceded in the trial court that the prosecutor gave a race-neutral reason for the peremptory strike. However, at a post-trial hearing, Defendant's counsel told the trial court that the prosecutor's stated reason for the strike was not supported by the transcript. On appeal, Defendant argued that the strike was racially motivated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to set aside the verdict based upon his Batson challenge because the record provided ample support for the trial court's finding that Defendant had not met his burden of proving purposeful racial discrimination. View "Bethea v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for violating Va. Code 18.2-374.3(C) by using a computer for the purpose of soliciting a minor, holding that the trial court and the court of appeals did not err in concluding that the statute did not violate Defendant's freedom of speech or his due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. After the jury convicted Defendant he moved for a new trial, claiming that the statute was unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no merit in Defendant's vagueness or overbreadth challenges to section 18.2-374.3(C). View "Stoltz v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions for grand larceny, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and providing false identification to a law enforcement officer, holding that Defendant's right to a speedy trial was not violated. In this case, Defendant had been continuously incarcerated since a March 2, 2016 preliminary hearing. For purposes of speedy trial, Defendant's trial should have commenced within five months of the preliminary hearing date. Defendant was not tried until November 14, 2016. The court of appeals found that that the trial court's continuance from August 2016 until November 2016 was a court-ordered continuance that was not counted against the Commonwealth. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's failure to make an affirmative objection to the trial court's continuation of the case was dispositive and that Defendant's speedy trial rights were not violated. View "Young v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Respondents, who were both previously adjudicated to be sexually violent predators and were committed to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services after a trial court determined that they had violated the terms of their conditional release, were not entitled to a State-appointed psychological expert to assist them in a hearing. Respondents filed motions asking for a court-appointed psychological expert to assist them in a hearing to determine whether they violated the conditions of their release and whether those violations rendered them unsuitable for conditional release. Specifically, Respondents argued that, because they were indigent, the Due Process Clause required the appointment of an expert. The circuit courts denied the motions and determined that Respondents violated the conditions of their release. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that given the temporary, expedited nature of the hearing and the other protections afforded Respondents, including the right to counsel, the Due Process Clause did not require the State to appoint an expert. View "Harvey 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 affirming Defendant's convictions, holding that that trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a police interrogation, arguing that his constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and its progeny were denied because the interrogation took place under circumstances requiring Miranda warnings prior to questioning and that the warnings he was given were constitutionally insufficient. The court of appeals affirmed the convictions, holding that Defendant was effectively advised under Miranda. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly found that no Miranda warnings were required; and (2) the warnings given to Defendant were a fully effective equivalent of the warnings required by Miranda. View "Spinner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing a school board's disciplinary proceedings against S.C., a high school student, with prejudice, holding that the circuit court misapplied the governing legal standards and misinterpreted the factual record of the disciplinary proceedings. The Fairfax County School Board disciplined S.C. for nonconsensual, sexual touching of three students at school. The circuit court dismissed the disciplinary proceedings, finding that the school board's decision was arbitrary, in violation of S.C.'s due process rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, applying the "intensely practical" principles of due process applicable to school disciplinary proceedings, nothing in the record suggested that the school board acted arbitrarily in violation of S.C.'s due process rights. View "Fairfax County School Board v. S.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction after the trial court had denied Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the exclusionary rule did not apply under the facts of this case. Defendant was convicted of stolen property. At issue on appeal was whether the trial court should have excluded evidence obtained by police officers during a warrantless search of a motorcycle parked on a private residential driveway. The case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, which held that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit a police officer to enter the curtilage of a home without a warrant in order to search a vehicle parked on that curtilage. The Supreme Court left for resolution on remand whether the warrantless intrusion on Defendant's house may have been reasonable on a different basis. On remand, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied because, at the time of the search, a reasonably well-trained police officer would not have known that the automobile exception did not permit him to search a motorcycle located a few feet across the curtilage boundary of a private driveway. View "Collins v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing on demurrer Plaintiff’s complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. 1983 claiming that prison officials had violated his due process rights during a prison disciplinary proceeding that resulted in a $10 fine, holding that there was no violation of Plaintiff’s due process rights. Plaintiff, an inmate in a Virginia prison, filed this action against several prison officials alleging deprivations of his due process rights. The circuit court granted Defendants’ demurrer, finding that the disciplinary proceeding had not deprived Plaintiff of any due process rights and that all of the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in holding that Plaintiff’s allegations did not state a viable due process claim. View "Anderson v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the order of the circuit court denying Defendant’s motion for continuance pursuant to Va. Code 19.2-159.1, holding that there was no reversible error in the court of appeals’ judgment. Defendant pled guilty to a single charge of robbery. At a sentencing hearing, Defendant sought and was granted a continuance to July 15. On July 14, Defendant filed a motion to substitute counsel and also sought a continuance pursuant to section 19.2-159.1. The circuit court declined to substitute counsel and denied the motion for continuance. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that Defendant failed to demonstrate exceptional circumstances to obtain a last-minute continuance. On appeal, Defendant asserted that section 19.2-159.1 required him to obtain private counsel, which he had done, and that he was therefore entitled to a continuance. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the statute confers no rights on defendants, and therefore, defendants are entitled to no remedy if a court declines to substitute counsel and grant a continuance for counsel to prepare. View "Reyes v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law