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Leesburg Criminal Law Blog

Drunk driving numbers decline but marijuana influence rises

More people in Virginia and across the United States are being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) due to marijuana rather than alcohol. Between 2007 and 2014, the number of drivers accused of operating vehicles under the influence of pot increased by 50 percent.

On the other hand, between 1973 and 2014, the number of drivers accused of using alcohol while driving declined by 77 percent. Driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana can have significantly different effects. Unlike alcohol, marijuana is not usually linked to reckless or speedy driving. However, it can lengthen reaction times and make it difficult for drivers to respond quickly to events.

The exclusionary rule and unreasonable search and seizure

Virginia residents likely know that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, but they may not know that evidence obtained without a search warrant or probable cause was still admissible in state courts during criminal trials until the Supreme Court effectively created the exclusionary rule in 1961. However, deciding whether or not evidence was gathered within the boundaries established by the Fourth Amendment is often difficult for judges.

Criminal defense attorneys may seek to have evidence excluded when police officers lacked probable cause to conduct a search, failed to obtain a search warrant or exceeded the scope of a search warrant that had been validly issued. Prosecutors may ask judges to grant them an exception to the exclusionary rule if the evidence in question was in plain sight or the officers involved reasonably believed that exigent circumstances existed.

Progress made in marijuana breath testing

While driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in Virginia, there is no comprehensive system that allows officers to test motorists reliably when out on the road. However, scientists are making progress when it comes to developing a portable marijuana "Breathalyzer".

Drivers can have some alcohol in their system without being too impaired to legally drive, but no amount of marijuana is legal while driving in any state. However, there is no current roadside test to detect marijuana on someone's breath. Finding compounds that relate to marijuana use is more difficult than finding alcohol in a driver's system, but researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology may have figured out how to measure THC, which is one of the main psychoactive compounds in marijuana.

Former Knicks coach facing 2 DUI charges

Virginia basketball fans may be interested to learn that Derek Fisher has been charged with two counts of drunk driving on July 2. The former New York Knicks coach was involved in a one-vehicle crash in early June, though neither Fisher or his passenger suffered any injuries.

According to Los Angeles authorities, Fisher was driving on U.S. 101 when his 2015 Cadillac hit the shoulder near an interchange in the Sherman Oaks area. The vehicle hit the curb and a guardrail before overturning. Authorities determined that Fisher had been drinking and driving when the accident occurred. As such, he was taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Posting bail can be the first step in criminal cases

A person accused of committing a crime in Virginia will frequently have the opportunity to get out of jail before trial due to release on bail. When a person is arrested and charged, a police officer can either release the defendant with a ticket or take the person into custody. Bail is a specific amount of money set by a court that is meant to guarantee the presence of the defendant at a later court appearance on the charges in question.

Defendants can post bail themselves, or it can be posted for them by another person, including a family member, friend or colleague. However, first bail must be set by the court. Courts consider a few factors when determining the amount. These include potential danger to the community, whether the charge is a violent one and whether the defendant poses a threat of fleeing the jurisdiction. Some defendants are denied bail, especially in cases that indicate a threat to the broader community or that carry a life sentence on conviction.

Authorities charge 12 with heroin trafficking

Authorities have leveled charges related to alleged narcotic trafficking offenses against 12 individuals in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Among the accused was the 55-year-old father of ex-NFL quarterback Michael Vick. News sources said that he and others were indicted for allegedly making plans to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin.

Law enforcement officials detained Vick's father the day after unsealing the grand jury indictment. While he was only charged with illegally using communication facilities, conspiring to launder money, possessing heroin for distribution purposes and conspiring to distribute a controlled substance, others also faced charges for a range of alleged illegal activities. These included the maintenance of criminal organizations and drug premises as well as the possession of firearms while trafficking heroin.

Former football player enters guilty plea in DUI case

Virginia pro football fans likely remember Lawrence Taylor. In 2016, the former New York Giant linebacker was charged with DUI after hitting a motor home and sideswiping a police car near Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Taylor admitted to authorities that he had probably had too much to drink before getting into his vehicle. Taylor entered a guilty plea in the case, and he will not have to serve jail time as part of his sentence.

Instead, he was sentenced to 12 months of probation in addition to having his driver's license suspended for nine months. He was also ordered to pay fines and court costs of $1,476. Finally, he was ordered to do community service and to have an ignition interlock device installed on his car for six months.

Woman gets more than 30 years for fatal drunk driving crash

On June 9, it was reported that a Virginia woman who was convicted of causing a fatal car accident while drunk behind the wheel was sentenced to 73 years in prison. However, 40 of those years were suspended, meaning she will ultimately spend more than 30 years behind bars.

In August 2016, the woman was driving on Highway 360 in Halifax County when she crashed into a telephone pole. Her fiance's 9-year-old son who was in the vehicle with her was taken to Duke University Hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries. The woman was found guilty on six charges in April. These charges included homicide and reckless DUI manslaughter.

Performer faces multiple drug charges

Virginia hip-hop fans may have heard about Chief Keef's legal troubles. On June 12 at about 8:30 a.m., airport security in Sioux Falls found four blunts and two marijuana edibles in his luggage. At about 9:12 that morning, the rapper was charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. It was believed that he had between two ounces and a half-pound of the drug.

The rapper was taken into custody in the city where had had been scheduled to perform on June 11. This is just one of many run-ins with the law that the performer has had in recent months. There was a warrant out after he failed to show up in court for arraignment related to DUI and drug possession charges in Miami. He was also taken into custody after allegedly assaulting and robbing a former producer.

Rapper faces felony drug charge in home state

Virginia residents who have followed the career of Rich Homie Quan may have heard about his recent legal troubles. The rapper was taken into custody while on his way to a performance in his home state of Georgia. Police first made contact with Quan and five other men at a checkpoint.

All six were taken into custody on suspicion of possessing drugs as well as suspicion of possessing a stolen gun. Quan was charged with a count of felony possession of drugs with intent to distribute, and reports indicate that he was in possession of marijuana when he was charged. He could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison if convicted on the felony possession charge.

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