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Leesburg Criminal Law Blog

Up to 6 percent of prisoners may be wrongfully convicted

The criminal justice system may be far less reliable than many Virginia residents expect. Many people are aware of some of the famous exonerations for serious crimes, especially on the basis of DNA. These cases generally concern capital crimes such as rape or murder.

Wrongful convictions happen in approximately 3 to 5 percent of capital crime cases. However, a University of Pennsylvania criminologist realized that no similar statistics existed for other types of crimes, ranging from felony assault or robbery charges to misdemeanor theft or drug possession cases. Several researchers examined the cases of approximately 3,000 state prisoners throughout Pennsylvania and found that up to 6 percent of them could be wrongfully convicted. The researchers noted that this is an upper-end estimate, and they expect that if the real result deviates, it would be to a lower number.

Virginia judge refers McGowan cocaine case to grand jury

Actress Rose McGowan faces the prospect of a criminal indictment for felony cocaine possession after a judge in Virginia ruled that the facts in the case warranted consideration by a grand jury. The ruling was handed down following a May 3 hearing. The ruling was another setback for McGowan's attorneys who tried unsuccessfully in March to have the case dismissed. The actress was charged in January after an airline employee discovered her driver's license in a wallet that also contained a package of cocaine while cleaning an aircraft.

McGowan was one of the first actresses to accuse film producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, and both the actress and her attorneys have suggested that the drugs were planted by one of the Hollywood mogul's agents to undermine and discredit her allegations. However, media reports suggest that the actress's attorneys made no such claims during the May 3 hearing and instead raised questions about the amount of time that elapsed between McGowan misplacing her wallet and its subsequent discovery.

Virginia man charged with DUI after police chase

A Virginia man is facing drunk driving charges after allegedly leading deputies from the Stafford County Sheriff's Office on a high-speed vehicle chase on U.S. 17 and Interstate 95 and then fleeing on foot. The incident took place on April 30.

According to authorities, a deputy observed the 39-year-old defendant just after 8 p.m. and tried to execute a traffic stop near U.S. 17 and Washington Street in Stafford. However, the defendant refused to pull over and drove onto southbound I-95. At one point, he reportedly pulled over on the shoulder of the highway and slowed down. However, he then accelerated and began to weave through traffic.

17th Virginian sentenced in massive drug sting operation

According to law enforcement authorities, a 17th defendant was sentenced for his role in a massive drug and gun ring that operated in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. The 51-year-old man was sentenced to 37 years in prison on April 24.

The drug sting operation, which was called Operation Riptide, was started in the fall of 2016 by the Norfolk Police Department, the Virginia State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. During the operation, law enforcement authorities discovered that more than 30 people in the area were selling heroin, other narcotics, and firearms.

Two men accused of dealing drugs from local hotel

Two men were arrested in Virginia on April 17 for allegedly dealing drugs out of the Country Inn and Suites in Hampton. After complaints were called into the police about alleged drug activity at the hotel on Hardy Cash Drive, police obtained search warrants for two rooms at the property.

When local police searched the rooms, they allegedly found drug paraphernalia, including digital scales and multiple cell phones, as well as controlled substances. Police reported seizing 49 pounds of marijuana, LSD blotter tabs, ounces of cocaine, two bags of MDMA and related documents. In the rooms, police arrested a 31-year-old man and a 33-year-old man, both from Flushing, New York.

Traffic stop for son of actor Sean Penn leads to drug arrest

Virginia residents who follow celebrity news may be interested to learn that Hopper Penn, son of actor Sean Penn, was arrested on drug charges in April. The 24-year-old, who works as an actor and model, was traveling through Nebraska on Interstate 80 when a state trooper pulled over his vehicle for allegedly not using a turn signal. Penn's 26-year-old girlfriend, a passenger in the vehicle, was also arrested.

After observing suspicious drug-related activities, the trooper pulled the couple over. A search of the 1992 Volvo allegedly produced four amphetamine pills, 3 grams of psilocybin mushrooms and 14 grams of marijuana. Authorities charged Penn for possession of the psilocybin mushrooms and marijuana. The woman in his company was charged with possession of the pills and the mushrooms.

Virginia college roiled by arrest of 10 people on drug charges

The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg was the scene of multiple arrests that included a faculty member, a college employee and eight students. Law enforcement reported finding cocaine, amphetamines, steroids, marijuana, hashish, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and opioids. Police officers also seized approximately $14,000 in cash.

The faculty member accused of involvement in the drug trafficking is a 40-year-old visiting assistant professor of immunology. The position held by the other college employee arrested during the investigation was not specified in police reports. Authorities have charged all 10 suspects with multiple drug offenses such as possession, distribution and drug possession near the school or on campus.

Can you be charged with a crime for losing your cool in traffic?

Dealing with other drivers can be frustrating. During your morning and afternoon commute, you might encounter drivers who are rude, aggressive or simply not paying attention. When you are stuck in congested traffic and have stressful things on your mind, it can be easy to lose control. However, it is important for you and other Virginia drivers to understand the potential legal consequences of losing your patience behind the wheel.

Someone has been tailgating you for the last few blocks, then suddenly he swerves around you and cuts you off. Maybe you respond by laying on the horn, giving him a gesture or speeding up to tailgate him. Actions like this qualify as aggressive driving, which may result in accidents but would likely come with a traffic offense charge if law enforcement pulled you over. However, if you attempt to get revenge on the rude driver by causing physical harm, this is a criminal offense, according to the American Safety Council. Why is this so? If your actions result in another person deliberately being hurt, it is a form of assault, regardless of whether you were acting in the heat of the moment without taking a moment to think about the consequences.

4 people detained in Virginia on drug charges

A Virginia sheriff says that taking four people into custody following a six-month investigation is one of law enforcement's biggest drug-related operations in the county's history. Executing a search warrant on April 4, deputies found 12 firearms, thousands of dollars in cash and illegal drugs worth $100,000.

The sheriff said the Louisa County narcotics task force plus Virginia State Police were involved in the investigation. The drugs seized included nearly 2 pounds of marijuana, a pound of crystal meth, hundreds of oxycodone pills and thousands of Xanax pills.

Task force in Virginia arrests 4 people for marijuana

An investigation organized by the Piedmont Regional Drug and Gang Task Force resulted in the execution of a search warrant at a home on Hill Street in Farmville. A news release from the state police disclosed that law enforcement agents arrested a man and a woman at that location. Police reported that they found marijuana at the residence, and authorities charged both people with felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

Task force members continued their investigation and targeted a residence hall at Longwood University. According to law enforcement, they found more marijuana and over $8,000 in cash at that location.

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