Justia Criminal Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
State v. Snyder
The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction and sentence for manufacturing a controlled substance, holding that the circuit court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence that Defendant argued was the fruit of an illegal entry and search of his home.Law enforcement went to Defendant's home to serve a domestic violence emergency protective order (EPO) that prohibited Defendant from possessing firearms and provided for the surrender of firearms to the officer serving the EPO. The officers concluded that the EPO served as a search warrant permitting them to enter and search Defendant's home for weapons. When the officers stepped into the residence, they smelled marijuana and performed a protective sweep, including a pat down of Defendant. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an EPO is not a de facto search warrant, and no exception to the warrant requirement applied to otherwise validate the entry into and search of Defendant's home; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. View "State v. Snyder" on Justia Law
State v. Costello
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of one count of driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury and sentencing him to life in prison, with mercy, holding that there was no error.After the jury returned a guilty verdict, the State filed a recidivist information alleging that Defendant had previously been convicted of two prior felony offenses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motions for a mistrial; (2) the State provided sufficient evidence of Defendant's prior Maryland conviction; and (3) the sentence imposed by the trial court was not an unconstitutionally disproportionate punishment under W. Va. Const. art. III, 5. View "State v. Costello" on Justia Law
State ex rel. DeChristopher v. Gaujot
The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition sought by the prosecuting attorney of Monongalia County to prohibit the circuit court from enforcing its order suppressing Cesar Felix's statement to Morgantown police and certain DNA evidence, holding that the circuit court committed clear legal error.Cesar Felix worked at a restaurant where a woman claimed that she was sexually assaulted upon leaving. When police interviewed him, Defendant denied any involvement in the crime and consented to a DNA search by cheek swab. The DNA evidence linked Felix to the crime, and he was subsequently charged with two counts of sexual assault. Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement and the DNA evidence, claiming that he was not given Miranda warnings or advised of his right to refuse his consent to the DNA search. The circuit court granted the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant was not in custody when he gave his statement, and therefore, no Miranda warnings were required; (2) Defendant's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and due process rights were not violated; and (3) Defendant's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches was not violated. View "State ex rel. DeChristopher v. Gaujot" on Justia Law
In re R.S.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court that the child R.S. be permanently placed with his siblings in the K family's home, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to conduct a best interest of the child analysis and ordering placement based solely on its conclusion that this placement was mandatory under W. Va. Code 49-2-126(a)(6).In this case concerning two foster families seeking placement of R.S. the circuit court ruled that newly enacted legislation, including section 49-2-126(a)(6), mandated that R.S. be placed in the same home as his siblings rather than in the home of Petitioners, who had had custody of R.S. for approximately half of the child's life. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 49-2-126(a)(6) requires a circuit court to conduct a best interest of the child analysis by considering a child's needs and a family's ability to meet those needs; and (2) the circuit court erred by removing R.S. from Petitioners' custody. View "In re R.S." on Justia Law
State v. Conner
The Supreme Court answered certified questions of law by holding that W. Va. Code 60A-4-416(b), which criminalizes the failure of any person who, while engaged in the illegal use of a controlled substance with another, knowingly fails to seek medical assistance for such other person and an overdose or adverse physical reaction proximately causes the death of the other person, is constitutional.Petitioner was indicted on the charge of failing to render aid to another, in violation of section 60A-4-416(b). Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the statute is unconstitutionally vague. The circuit court held the motion in abeyance and determined that certain aspects of section 60A-4-416(b) warranted the certification of two questions to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered (1) the phrase in section 60A-4-416(b) "any person who, while engaged in the illegal use of a controlled substance with another" is not unconstitutionally vague; and (2) the undefined phrase "seek medical assistance" in the context of the statute provides an adequate standard for adjudication. View "State v. Conner" on Justia Law
In re I.S.A.
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court denying a petition to expunge a criminal record based upon its finding that Petitioner was barred from seeking expungement pursuant to W. Va. Code 61-11-25(a), holding that the circuit court erred in ruling, without holding a hearing, that Petitioner was barred from seeking expungement.Without holding a hearing, the circuit court found that Petitioner was statutorily barred from seeking expungement due to a purported plea of guilty entered by Petitioner in exchange for the dismissal of another charge. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in (1) finding that Petitioner entered a plea of guilty and was therefore barred from seeking expungement; (2) finding, without evidentiary support, that granting Petitioner's request for expungement was contrary to the public interest and public safety; and (3) failing to hold a hearing under the particular circumstances presented by this case. View "In re I.S.A." on Justia Law
State v. Walker
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to correct illegal sentence, holding that the circuit court did not err in determining that defendants are not entitled to credit for time served on home incarceration where the home incarceration is a condition of probation.Defendant was convicted of one count of grand larceny by false pretenses. Defendant was sentenced to a term of one to ten years in prison, suspended in favor of three years' probation. After Defendant's probation was revoked, he was sentenced to the underlying term of incarceration. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to correct illegal sentence, asserting that he should be credited for time served on home incarceration as part of his probation. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to credit for time served while on home incarceration where that home incarceration was imposed as a condition of probation rather than as an alternative sentence to another form of incarceration. View "State v. Walker" on Justia Law
State v. Wilson
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction on a felony charge of fleeing from a law enforcement officer in a vehicle while operating the vehicle in a manner showing a reckless indifference to the safety of others, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) there was no error in the trial court’s giving of an instruction that evidence of flight may be considered by the jury, along with other facts and circumstances, to show consciousness of guilt; and (2) the court’s failure to instruct the jury on a lesser included offense of fleeing in a vehicle but without reckless indifference was error, but the error was not reversible under the applicable standard of review. View "State v. Wilson" on Justia Law
State v. Paul C.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion to dismiss an indictment that alleged eighteen felony sexual offenses against him involving two minors, holding that the three-term rule was not violated in this case.In his motion to dismiss, Petitioner claimed that because three regular terms of court passed without a trial he was entitled to be discharged from prosecution for the offenses charged in the indictment, pursuant to W. Va. Code 62-3-21. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) three unexcused terms of court did not pass without a trial; and (2) therefore, Petitioner's right to be tried without unreasonable delay, pursuant to section 62-3-21, was not violated. View "State v. Paul C." on Justia Law
State v. Deem
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence for attempting to solicit a minor using a computer, holding that the warrantless seizure of Defendant's cell phone was reasonable under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement and did not violate Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights.Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his cell phone, arguing that the plain view exception to the warrant requirement did not cover law enforcement's seizure of his phone. The circuit court denied Defendant's motion, apparently based on the plain view exception to the warrant requirement. After Defendant was convicted he appealed, arguing that the temporary warrantless seizure of his cell phone violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress. View "State v. Deem" on Justia Law