Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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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 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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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Appellant’s petition to change his name. Appellant, Brian Wendall Jordan, was serving a term of incarceration when he underwent a religious conversion. Appellant filed a petition to change his name to Abdul-Wakeel Mutawakkil Jordan, adding that he would not be hindered from the free exercise of his religion if not allowed to change his name. The circuit court found that Appellant’s application frustrated a legitimate law-enforcement purpose and, thus, the provisions of Va. Code 8.01-217(D) were not satisfied. Specifically, the court concluded that, due to the gravity and brutality of Defendant’s crimes, Defendant must retain his given name for the peace of mind of the victims and the victims’ families. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the basis articulated by the trial court for denying Appellant’s petition did not fall outside the scope of its broad discretion. View "Jordan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from a state employee grievance proceeding, a hearing officer’s decision upholding the termination of Nathan Osborn, a special agent with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), was not contrary to law. ABC terminated Osburn’s employment after receiving a complaint that Osburn rummaged, without permission, through the business records of a business owner who had applied for a retail alcohol license. A hearing officer upheld Osburn’s termination, concluding that the warrantless search was not permissible, resulting in a violation of the applicant’s constitutional rights. The circuit court upheld the hearing officer’s determination. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s determination that Osborn violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Osburn’s warrantless inspection of the office of the applicant’s business was not permissible under the highly regulated industry exception to the warrant requirement and that the business owner did not consent to Osburn’s warrantless search of the office. View "Osburn v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether evidence of a search must be suppressed under Va. Code 19.2-54 because a magistrate incorrectly faxed only portions of a search warrant to the clerk of the circuit court. Defendant was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the magistrate’s failure to properly fax the search warrant to the clerk’s office rendered the warrant invalid. The trial court agreed that the warrant was defective but denied the suppression motion on the ground that the search was justified by exigent circumstances. The court of appeals reversed, arguing that section 19.2-54 rendered the fruits of the search inadmissible as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court’s order of conviction, holding that, even assuming that the magistrate’s incomplete faxing rendered the search warrant invalid under section 19.2-54, the search was justified as a warrantless search under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. View "Commonwealth v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals regarding its ruling on the law of the case doctrine but affirmed its judgment regarding its rulings on the admission of certain strip search evidence and Defendant’s conviction for possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. Defendant was indicted for possession with the intent to distribute. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence from a strip search. The circuit court granted the motion to suppress the evidence recovered from the strip search on the grounds that it violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The court of appeals reversed the grant of the motion to suppress. After Defendant was convicted, he appealed. The court of appeals concluded (1) its review of its ruling on the motion to suppress and the constitutionality of the strip search was precluded by the law of the case doctrine; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to uphold Defendant’s conviction. Although the Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals was authorized to reconsider the constitutionality of the strip search and the admissibility of the strip search evidence on direct appeal; and (2) the court of appeals’ did not err in its rulings on the admission of the strip search evidence and Defendant’s conviction. View "Cole v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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James Gardner Dennis, an inmate in the Greenville Correctional Center, petitioned the circuit court to change his name to James Gardner Wright pursuant to Va. Code 8.01-217. The circuit court dismissed the application for lack of “good cause.” Dennis appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in dismissing his application for lack of good cause because he asserted a religious purpose as the reason for his change of name. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court clearly failed to consider Dennis’s alleged reason for the application, as required by statute. The court remanded the case to the circuit court with direction to accept Dennis’s application and to proceed with a hearing before exercising its discretion in determining whether Dennis’s request for a name change should be granted. View "In re Dennis" on Justia 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

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Defendant moved to suppress the fruits of the search that led to his arrest on the ground that the probable cause for the search was provided by the warrantless use of a drug-sniffing dog in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The circuit court denied the motion to suppress and found Defendant guilty of felony possession with intent to distribute. After Defendant’s conviction became legal, the United States Supreme Court decided Florida v. Jardines, which announced that use of a drug-sniffing dog on a homeowner’s porch constitutes a search within the meaning of the of the Fourth Amendment. Thereafter, Defendant filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the circuit court, alleging that Jardines confirmed that the search of his home was invalid and that Jardines was retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. The habeas court dismissed the petition, concluding that Jardines introduced a new rule and was not retroactive. The court also denied a plenary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Jardines does not apply retroactively to convictions such as Defendant’s because it announced a new rule of constitutional law; and (2) the habeas court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s request for a plenary hearing. View "Oprisko v. Director" on Justia Law