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Leesburg Criminal Law Blog

Critics call ankle monitors unfair, costly and dangerous

At times, authorities will attach electronic monitoring systems to parolees or people awaiting trial in Virginia. Two men heading the Challenging E-Carceration Project have researched the negative aspects of ankle monitors and the excessive punishment that they place on people, especially those who have not yet been convicted of a crime.

Malfunctions caused by a lost GPS signal or battery failure sometimes land people in jail for days even if they were complying with court orders. Authorities often make no allowances for emergencies like a power outage or a cut requiring a trip to the hospital. Even notifying a parole officer about the need to visit the emergency room did not spare one man from 10 days of incarceration because he left his home.

The argument in favor of reducing drug possession charges

In Virginia and across the nation, the criminal justice system is stacked against defendants who are convicted of drug possession offenses. The outcomes of felony drug convictions are often more severe than just prison sentences, fines and supervised release; there is also a socioeconomic stigma that interferes with future job opportunities as well as obtaining educational and healthcare benefits.

At a time when various states have chosen to allow the recreational use of cannabis, researchers focused on public health policy are supporting the idea of reclassifying drug charges so that marijuana possession and other offenses become misdemeanors. A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health cites the success of a program in California that has been reducing certain drug crimes to misdemeanors since 2014; as a result, the racial disparity of arrests made in the Golden State has diminished considerably.

How racial bias may affect bail judges

Virginia residents may be interested in a study that examines the role race plays in the decisions made by bail judges. According to the study, bail judges, whether they are white or black, seem to show bias against defendants who are black.

According to one study, black defendants are 2.4 percent more likely to be detained while they wait for their court hearings as opposed to their white counterparts. White defendants will pay around $7,281 less than black defendants for bail.

3 people taken into custody for drug possession

Two men and a woman are facing drug charges after an officer was sent to Black Diamond Market in Lee County, Virginia. The officer approached an ATV and smelled marijuana, which prompted a search of the vehicle. According to the officer, the search turned up 27 grams of methamphetamine, and one of the men ate methamphetamine hoping to destroy evidence. The search also yielded two handguns, marijuana and some scales.

The woman who was taken into custody was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and marijuana. She was also charged with being in possession of a firearm while being in possession of drugs. A 35-year-old man faces those same charges as well as being in possession of a firearm after being convicted of a felony. A 31-year-old man was charged with a second offense of being in possession of marijuana.

July 4th resulted in nearly a DUI arrest every hour

Individuals who choose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming excessive alcohol put countless lives at risk. That is why law enforcement takes driving under the influence very seriously. 

When holidays come around, the police often become much more vigilant because they know more people will drink because of the occasion. This is readily visible during the last Fourth of July weekend. Virginia State Police were extremely busy throughout July 3rd and 4th, and they managed to arrest 42 drivers over a 48-hour period. 

Underage DUI laws impose a zero-tolerance approach

For drivers in Virginia, DUI charges can be serious at any age. However, they can be at their most severe for people who are arrested and charged with underage DUI. For people who are legally driving but not yet legally drinking because they are under the age of 21, DUI charges can be leveled even when the driver is under the legal limit of 0.08 percent BAC. Drivers with alcohol in their systems under the age of 21 are subject to a different legal regime that can put their driving privileges at risk.

These laws, called zero-tolerance laws, prohibit people under the age of 21 from driving with any amount of alcohol in their systems at all. The legal limit for people under 21 can range from just above 0.00 percent BAC to 0.02 percent BAC, well below the legal limit for drivers over 21. Even one glass of wine with dinner could put a driver under the age of 21 at risk of serious DUI charges.

Cellphone location information receives greater protection

People in Virginia could have greater privacy protections after a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant in order to access location information for a person's cellphone. The June 2018 decision is based on the Fourth Amendment, protecting people's rights to be free of warrantless search and seizure. There have been a variety of mixed rulings on how the Fourth Amendment applies to modern technologies, but experts say that this ruling could be among the most significant.

Cell site location information, or CSLI, is collected by wireless providers for their business purposes, and it can enable the carrier to retain extensive location and movement information for each cellphone. Police and prosecutors have made extensive use of CSLI in a number of cases in an attempt to gather information about a suspect. A federal law, the Stored Communications Act, enabled this practice, allowing police to access CSLI without a warrant on the basis of "reasonable grounds" that the information was "relevant and material" to an ongoing case.

Drug charges on the rise in central Virginia

Throughout central Virginia, law enforcement has escalated drug raids and arrests. This has led the number of drug and narcotic offenses to rise 42 percent between 2016 and 2017. An annual Virginia State Police report on crime statistics showed that drug arrests in the region have escalated far more rapidly than the statewide upswing of 16 percent. This reported increase in drug crimes has accompanied the opioid epidemic that has grown across the country.

The drug crime statistics tracked by the report cover a wide range of allegations, from simple possession of marijuana to large-scale distribution charges. Various cities in the region found that their local statistics mirrored the regional upswing. For example, Lynchburg alone noted a 42 percent increase in drug cases. However, police in the city noted that they also changed their reporting system, which can cause offenses previously registered as one crime to now appear several times, especially when multiple charges are involved. For example, if one person was arrested for both drug possession and possession of paraphernalia, this would be registered as two offenses.

Woman accepts responsibility for deadly DUI crash

A woman who once appeared on a reality TV show produced by the Lifetime cable network awaits her sentencing in jail after a fatal crash that happened in November 2017. She entered guilty pleas for manslaughter, DUI, disobeying traffic signs and driving the wrong way. According to the Virginia State Police, she drove a 2011 Cadillac the wrong way in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 264 and struck a 2009 Mazda.

The 29-year-old male driver of the Mazda died from his injuries at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital one day later. The woman suffered injuries as well and initially received a bond that allowed her to stay out of jail. She used a walker to enter a courtroom in December. Despite her injuries, the judge revoked her bond.

Vince Vaughn stopped at checkpoint, charged with DUI

Virginia fans of Vince Vaughn may be interested to learn that the actor was recently arrested for driving while intoxicated. Reports indicate that the he was detained at a DUI checkpoint on June 10 at approximately 12:30 a.m. in Southern California. According to media sources, the actor has not released any statements on the charges.

Vaughn is now facing charges of resisting, delaying or obstructing officers as well as driving under the influence. A spokesperson for Manhattan Beach Police Department told sources that Vaughn's male passenger was also taken into custody on charges of public intoxication and obstructing officers. Later, a second police spokesperson said that the actor had delayed the arrest. However, the officers did not need to use force during the incident.

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