Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Opinion Digests / Criminal Law / Appellant not entitled to deferred disposition

Appellant not entitled to deferred disposition

Where the circuit court entered a writ­ten conviction order after finding appel­lant guilty of grand larceny and possess­ing burglary tools, the court erred by later determining that he was entitled to a deferred disposition under Starrs v. Commonwealth, 287 Va. 1 (2014).

We affirm, however under the “right result, wrong reason” doctrine because the court never ordered a deferred dispo­sition.


Appellant was caught stealing four expensive shirts, which he stuffed into a “waist trainer,” a corset-type device he wore under his sweater and shirt.

A written conviction order was entered after a bench trial on charges of grand larceny and possession of burglary tools. The court sentenced appellant to 180 days for each conviction and suspended both sentences for one year while appel­lant served a year of probation.

“The circuit court entered a sentencing order on May 9, 2018, and contemporane­ously entered another order suspending entry of the sentencing order for ninety days because ‘current counsel in the Of­fice of the Public Defender was not the Defendant’s counsel for the trial and sentencing and needs additional time to ensure all appropriate post-trial motions have been filed prior to noting the Defen­dant’s appeal.’

“This order had no mention of, or effect on, the circuit court’s finding of guilt on the record at the conclusion of trial or the existing final conviction order.”

Appellant then moved for a deferred disposition under Starrs, arguing that al­though he had been found guilty, sentenc­ing had been continued for 90 days. The commonwealth replied that the court’s finding of guilt foreclosed any delayed disposition.

The court ruled that had the authori­ty to make a delayed disposition but de­clined to do so.

No delay

“Although the sentencing order was stayed for ninety days to permit new­ly-appointed counsel to file any post-trial motions, the final conviction order was not stayed. In both the conviction order and the transcript, there was clearly a fi­nal, formal adjudication of guilt. As such, the circuit court had no authority to defer disposition pursuant to Starrs at the time of the hearing where it so held.

“Although the circuit court erred in finding that it could have deferred dis­position pursuant to Starrs, it ultimate­ly did not do so.” Under the “right result, wrong reason” doctrine, there was no “re­versable error” in this case because the court did not order a delayed disposition.


Edwards v. Commonwealth, Record No. 15419-18-4, Jan. 14, 2020. CAV (At­lee) from Fairfax Cir. Ct. (Bellows). Negin Farahmand Yeganeh for appellant, Mark R. Herring for appellee. VLW 020-7-010, 5 pp. Unpublished.

VLW 020-7-010

Virginia Lawyers Weekly