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Criminal cases dominate decision day

Twelve of the 18 opinions from the Supreme Court of Virginia today are criminal cases – and another one was a sexually violent predator case.

Defendants prevailed in eight of the criminal cases and the SVP opinion was a split decision.

In the SVP case, Commonwealth v. Garrett, the court ruled that the trial judge erred in ruling that the defendant had a vested right in having his December 1985 criminal conviction in juvenile court destroyed after 20 years. They weren’t and the commonwealth attempted to use them as evidence in the SVP proceeding. On the other hand, the judge was right in refusing to admit the opinion of a psychologist who based the opinion in part on an incident for which the defendant was charged as a minor but never prosecuted.

Other reversals involved:

– A  flight instruction that a rape defendant objected to, Turman v. Commonwealth;

– A grand larceny conviction in which the prosecution failed to prove that $200 worth of items had been stolen, Britt v. Commonwealth;

– A B&E in which the evidence was insufficient to show intent to commit larceny, Vincent v. Commonwealth;

– Suppression of a statement by a motorist who was in handcuffs but not formally under arrest when he told police a handgun was under the driver’s seat, Hasan v. Commonwealth;

– Evidence insufficient to show that a woman was a principal in the second degree to the cocaine dealing of her boyfriend, Brickhouse v. Commonwealth;

– An improper revocation of first-offender drug status for drug use that occurred after the term of probation specified in the order granting first-offender status, White v. Commonwealth;

– A peeling, but valid inspection sticker that the court found provided no more than a hunch of criminal conduct and was therefore an insufficient reason to stop the vehicle, Moore v. Commonwealth;

– An anonymous tip that the court decided, 4-3, did not provide enough detail to justify the stop of the vehicle in question, Harris v. Commonwealth..

On the other hand, the court:

– Rejected several issues related to a rape conviction, including a request for an expert witness and a challenge to the state rape shield law, Ortiz v. Commonwealth;

– Affirmed the court of appeals decision that deliberately hitting another car can be the basis of a felony hit-and-run charge despite use of the word “accident” in the statute, Milazzo v. Commonwealth;

– Held that the prosecution need not show a supervisory or custodial relationship at the time a defendant takes indecent liberties with a minor with whom he has such a relationship at other times, Sadler v. Commonwealth; and

– Upheld the embezzlement convictions of a physician who did not remit funds withheld from employees to the Virginia Department of Taxation, Commonwealth v. George.

By Alan Cooper

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