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Supreme Court decides criminal cases

A Department of Motor Vehicles record that a defendant was notified of his habitual offender status by law enforcement did not establish that he received actual notice of his determination as an habitual offender, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled today.

The DMV record entry, “Notified: 2001/03/10 by law enforcement,” “does not specify the content of any notification that may have been provided to [the defendant], and this entry does not identify the person, agency, or entity that constituted law enforcement,’ ” the court said.

Despite the reversal in Bishop v. Commonwealth, it was a good day for the Virginia Court of Appeals and the attorney general’s office. The high court upheld convictions in six other cases and reversed a grant of a new trial by a Norfolk Circuit judge granted in a widely publicized murder case. That contrasts with recent Supreme Court opinion days in which most decisions were in favor of criminal defendants.

In Wright v. Commonwealth, the court said a trial judge can impose additional terms of suspended incarceration and post-release supervision after accepting a plea agreement under Rule 3A:8(c)(1)(C).

In Malbrough v. Commonwealth, the court held that the trial judge properly ruled that a defendant consented to a search of his person after he was told that he was free to leave at the end of a traffic stop.

In Phelps v. Commonwealth, the court said the person endangered under a charge of felony eluding and endangerment under Code § 46.2-817(B) can be the defendant himself.

In Parker v. Commonwealth, the court affirmed a conviction for larceny under false pretenses of a man who sold fake ecstasy pills to an undercover police office.

In Glenn v. Commonwealth, the court agreed that a grandfather had the authority to allow the search of a backpack in the room of the house the grandson occupied.

In Bolden v. Commonwealth, the court upheld the conviction of constructive possession of a firearm that was found in a plastic bag in the seat that had been occupied by the driver of a vehicle. The trial judge also could infer that the presence of drugs in the car supported the finding that the defendant had dominion and control over the gun, the court said.

In the habeas case, Johnson v. Tice, the court rejected the trial judge’s finding that counsel for Derek Elliott Tice had been ineffective in failing to file a motion to suppress his confession. Tice is one of four defendants who pleaded guilty to the murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko in 1997. Four former Virginia attorneys general have questioned the validity of the convictions, citing inconsistencies in the confessions and DNA evidence the implicates a fifth suspect not charged in Moore-Bosko’s death but convicted of another rape.

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