Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia
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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of defrauding a hotel restaurant when she obtained food from the restaurant without paying, holding that a rational trier of fact could not have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant was convicted of violating Va. Code 18.2-188(b)(2), which makes it unlawful for any person who "without paying therefor, and with the intent to cheat or defraud the owner or keeper to...obtain food from a restaurant or other eating house." On appeal, Defendant argued that the plain language of section 18.2-188(b)(2) requires proof of specific intent to defraud at the time the benefit is received and that the Commonwealth's evidence was insufficient to prove she possessed the intent to defraud at the time she obtained the meal. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 18.2-188(b)(2) required proof that Defendant had the intent to cheat or defraud the hotel restaurant at the time she gained possession of the food; and (2) the trial court did not find the essential element of specific intent beyond a reasonable doubt - that Defendant possessed the intent to cheat or defraud the hotel restaurant at the time she obtained the food. View "Caldwell v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions for aggravated involuntary manslaughter and driving while intoxicated, holding that the Commonwealth presented evidence sufficient to support jury verdicts finding that Defendant had, prior to the accident, self-administered intoxicants that impaired his ability to drive safely. At the close of the Commonwealth's evidence, Defendant moved to strike it on the ground that the Commonwealth had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs in his blood were self-administered. The trial court denied the motion, and the jury found Defendant guilty. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's assignments of error relating to the question of whether the drugs found in his blood had been self-administered were without merit. View "Lambert v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing as untimely Defendant's appeal of his convictions, holding that Defendant's immediate appeal was untimely. Defendant was convicted of abduction and assault and battery of a family member. Because the original sentencing order contained a scrivener's error the court entered an amended order adding handwritten notations on the first and last pages. Defendant appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely, noting that the original order was the final appealable order and that the amended order was entered to correct a scrivener's error. Defendant appealed, arguing that the court of appeals erred in holding that the amended order was not the final order for purposes of noting his appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the original order, and not the amended order, was the final appealable order in this case and that, therefore, Defendant's appeal was untimely. View "Jefferson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions for use of a firearm in the commission of an abduction and use of a firearm in the commission of a malicious wounding, holding that the court of appeals did not err in upholding the convictions even though the jury did not find Defendant guilty of the predicate offenses of abduction and malicious wounding. On appeal, Defendant argued that the two firearm convictions could not stand when the jury had failed to find him guilty of the predicate offenses. The court of appeals dismissed the petition based upon Defendant's mistaken reference to robbery rather than malicious wounding. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under Reed v. Commonwealth, 239 Va. 594 (1990) and related cases, the court of appeals did not err in upholding the jury's verdicts. View "McQuinn v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals denying Defendant's appeal from the decision of the trial court refusing to entertain Defendant's motion to reduce his sentence under Va. Code 19.2-303, holding that the lower courts did not err in concluding that the trial court was deprived of jurisdiction to hear Defendant's motion following his transfer to the Department of Corrections (DOC). Defendant was convicted of possession of methamphetamine by a prisoner. After Defendant incurred new convictions the circuit court revoked Defendant's suspended sentence. Defendant later filed a motion for modification of sentence asking the court to reconsider its order revoking his entire suspended sentence. Five days before a scheduled hearing on the motion, the court learned that Defendant had been taken into the custody of the DOC. At a later hearing, the trial court concluded that it was barred from considering Defendant's motion. The court of appeals denied Defendant's appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the lower courts correctly held that once Defendant had been transferred to the DOC the trial court could no longer modify his sentence; and (2) no violation of Defendant's constitutional rights occurred in this case. View "Akers v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant's convictions for conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and distribution of oxycodone, third or subsequent offense, holding that Defendant was not deprived of his right to counsel during a critical stage of a criminal prosecution. On appeal, Defendant alleged that at a hearing, at which Defendant appeared without counsel, he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The reason for the hearing was to advise Defendant as to the status of his case and to ascertain what his wishes were with respect to having counsel of his choice after his attorney was suspended. Defendant argued that he should have been afforded the assistance of counsel before being required to make a decision about whether to proceed with the scheduled trial without the assistance of his then-suspended counsel. The court of appeals affirmed Defendant's convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing did not require Defendant to have the assistance of counsel to formulate his response, and thus, this was not a critical stage of the criminal proceedings that would give rise to a presumption of prejudice as a result of Defendant not having counsel at that time. View "Weatherholt v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for misdemeanor failure to stop at the scene of an accident in violation of Va. Code 46.2-894, holding that the court of appeals correctly found that the evidence was sufficient to prove that Defendant had failed to satisfy either of two post-accident reporting requirements in the statute. Upon affirming Defendant's conviction, the court of appeals further held that "to meet the statutory command, [Defendant] only needed to report forthwith the required information to one person described in the statutory list." The Supreme Court vacated this portion of the court of appeals' opinion, holding that the court of appeals did not have to agree with Defendant's concession of law that the statute's reporting requirements are disjunctive and that it was logically unnecessary for the court of appeals to address this undisputed legal issue. View "Butcher v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Appellant's conviction, holding that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Appellant's conviction for felony homicide because felony hit and run may serve as a predicate offense for a felony homicide conviction. Appellant was charged with felony hit and run and felony homicide for a single incident. Counsel for Appellant moved to strike the felony homicide charge at the close of the Commonwealth's evidence, arguing that a hit and run in violation of Va. Code 46.2-894 was insufficient as a matter of law to support a conviction of felony homicide. In response, the Commonwealth argued that a felony homicide was proper because the homicide was within the res gestae of the predicate hit and run. The trial court denied the motion to strike and found Appellant guilty of both charges. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Appellant committed the hit and run with malice sufficient to elevate the killing to second-degree murder and that the victim's death occurred within the res gestae of the underlying hit and run. View "Flanders v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the trial court's conviction of Defendant of attempted identity theft, holding that one can commit attempted identity theft under Va. Code 18.2-186.3 when using his or her own identifying information to obtain money. Defendant stole a check, made it payable to herself, and forged the account owner's signature. Using her own driver's license as identification, Defendant presented the check to a bank teller for cash but left the bank before completing the transaction. Defendant was subsequently convicted of attempted identity theft. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's conviction for attempted identity theft under section 18.2-186.3. View "Taylor v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for driving after forfeiture of her license, third offense in ten years, holding that the court of appeals did not err in finding that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove that she had had actual notice that her license was revoked on the date of the instant offense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the evidence, a rational fact-finder could reasonably infer that Defendant was driving without any "legal right to do so," and therefore, the court of appeals did not err in finding the evidence sufficient to support Defendant's conviction. View "Yoder v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law