Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

by
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

by
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

by
Defendant was two months short of his eighteenth birthday when he shot and killed Timothy Irving. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of eight felonies, including first degree murder. The trial court sentenced Defendant to life in prison for the first degree murder charge. Defendant appealed the trial court’s refusal to appoint a neuropsychologist at the Commonwealth’s expense to assist in the preparation of his presentence report and its decision to impose a life sentence. The court of appeals denied Defendant’s petition for appeal with regard to the denial of his motion for a neuropsychologist but granted his petition with regard to the sentence imposed. The court of appeals then concluded that the trial court did not err in sentencing Defendant because a sentence of life did not exceed the statutory maximum penalty for first-degree murder and that because Defendant was not facing a mandatory life sentence, Miller v. Alabama did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to show any abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision that mandated review by the court of appeals; and (2) Miller has no application to the present case. View "Johnson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of receiving stolen property and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Before trial, Defendant moved to suppress evidence obtained when police conducted a warrantless search of a stolen motorcycle parked in the driveway of a home where Defendant resided. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing that the police officer trespassed when he walked up the driveway of Defendant’s residence without permission or a search warrant and conducted an unconstitutional search by removing the motorcycle tarp to reveal its VIN. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the officer’s search of the motorcycle was justified under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. View "Collins v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
While on probation for a petit larceny as a third offense conviction, Christopher Forbes pled guilty to robbery and abduction. Because the new convictions constituted a violation of Forbes’ probation, the circuit court held a probation revocation hearing. The court found Forbes in violation of the terms of his probation on the petit larceny conviction and revoked his suspended sentence. Forbes later filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that his counsel was ineffective in refusing to file an appeal after Forbes “made known his desire to do so.” The habeas court ruled that Forbes was denied the effective assistance of counsel in appealing the revocation of his suspended sentence. The Warden of the Lunenburg Correctional Center appealed, arguing that Forbes was not constitutionally entitled to counsel at the revocation hearing, and therefore, he was not entitled to effective assistance of counsel on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Forbes had no federal constitutional right to counsel in his probation revocation hearing, and therefore, he could not have been denied the effective assistance of that counsel. View "Walker v. Forbes" on Justia Law

by
Governor Terence McAuliffe issued an executive order restoring certain civil rights, including the right to vote, of approximately 206,000 Virginians who had been convicted of a felony but who had since completed their sentences of incarceration and supervised release. Petitioners filed a petition seeking writs of mandamus and prohibition seeking to cancel the voter registrations accomplished pursuant to the executive order and prevent further such registrations, asserting that the Governor’s executive order and any similar subsequent orders nullified the Virginia Constitution’s general prohibition against voting by convicted felons who had completed sentences of incarceration and supervision. The Supreme Court issued the requested writ and ordered the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the State Board of Elections, and the Virginia Department of Elections to take certain actions in response to this Court’s opinion, holding that the executive order violated Va. Const. art. I, 7 and Va. Const. art. II, 1. View "Howell v. McAuliffe" on Justia Law

by
The two decedents in these consolidated cases were residents at two different nursing homes operating by Virginia Health Services, Inc. After their deaths, the executors asked the nursing homes to provide copies of the written policies and procedures in effect during the decedents’ stays. The nursing homes refused, and the decedents’ estates filed declaratory judgment complaints seeking to assert a private right of action for the production of documents under 12 VAC 5-371-140(G). Specifically, the estates sought an order of “specific performance” compelling the nursing homes to provide the requested documents. The circuit court dismissed both complaints, holding that the regulation did not require the production of documents requested by the estates. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) the governing statute does not imply a private right of action for the enforcement of this regulation; and (2) therefore, the estates’ claims cannot be enforced in a declaratory judgment action. View "Cherrie v. Virginia Health Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

by
A pretrial detainee asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against guards and nurses at a regional jail. The jail authority had purchased a general liability insurance policy (the VaCorp Policy) from the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool (Risk Pool Association) and also elected to participate in a government-sponsored insurance program (the VaRISK Plan) managed by the Division of Risk Management (DRM). While the federal suit was pending, the detainee filed a declaratory judgment action against DRM and the Risk Pool Association seeking a determination of their respective liabilities for insuring the jail defendants. The Risk Pool Association and the DRM filed opposing third-party claims for declaratory relief. The detainee later settled with the jail defendants. The circuit court concluded (1) the VaRISK Plan was the sole primary coverage and that the DRM had the exclusive duty to defend the jail defendants, and (2) the Risk Pool Association had no duty to contribute toward the defense costs incurred by the jail defendants in the federal suit. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the VaCorp Policy and VaRISK Plan provided co-primary liability coverage to the jail defendants; and (2) VaRISK Plan’s $2 million coverage extension applicable to medical malpractice claims did not apply to the section 1983 civil rights claim alleging violations of federal constitutional law. Remanded. View "Commonwealth, Div. of Risk Mgmt. v. Va. Ass'n of Counties Group Self Ins. Risk Pool" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of three felony drug offenses. Defendant filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of a traffic stop, arguing that the stop violated his Fourth Amendment rights. A panel of the Court of Appeals ordered reversal and remand to the circuit court for a new trial, ruling that the facts and circumstances available to the arresting officer at the time of the stop did not support a reasonable suspicion that Defendant was violating or about to violate the law. The full court reversed the panel decision and affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the investigatory stop of the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger was justified by reasonable suspicion that a violation of the law was occurring, and therefore, Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. View "Mason v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
The City filed a petition for condemnation asking for a determination of just compensation for property taken and damages to the residue. The circuit court awarded Dominion SecurityPlus Self Storage, LLC $44,141 for the value of the fee take and more than $2.1 million for the damages to the residue, including loss of visibility and loss of direct access. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court awarding Dominion damages to the residue and entered final judgment in favor of the City on that claim, holding that Dominion failed to present any evidence by which any of over $2.1 in damages that the circuit court awarded could be apportioned to the City’s take of a utility easement and a temporary construction easement outside the area of reservation. View "City of Chesapeake v. Dominion SecurityPlus Self Storage, LLC" on Justia Law