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Leesburg Criminal Law Blog

Wrongful convictions continue to haunt justice system

For many people in Virginia, a false conviction is one of their worst nightmares. The thought of spending years in prison and carrying a felony criminal record despite being innocent is chilling. However, it has also been a reality for far too many people. According to a report from the National Registry of Exonerations, wrongly convicted prisoners lost 1,600 years of life behind bars in 2018 alone. The organization tracks the exoneration of wrongfully convicted people from 1989 moving forward.

It noted that in 2018, 151 people were released from prison after they were found to be wrongfully convicted. Together, those people had served 1,639 years in prison, with an average of 11 years behind bars per person. In many of these cases, official misconduct played a role in the original conviction. In 107 of the 151 cases, misconduct by police, prosecutors or other officials was documented as part of the record. In the 54 homicide cases where defendants were exonerated, 80 percent involved some form of official misbehavior. In 70 of the cases, the alleged crimes never even took place.

Key aspects of pursuing an expungement in Virginia

People make mistakes in their youth, and, unfortunately, those mistakes can follow them through the years. In the case of someone who faces criminal charges, the ramifications can be quite extensive.

Thankfully, if you or a loved one have felony charges on your record and serve your debt to society, you may be able to remove the charges from your record with an expungement. You can think of the process in three steps.

Facial recognition software and shoplifting

Virginia retailers have strong motivations to keep shoplifters out of their stores, but the increasing use of facial recognition surveillance systems raises concerns about privacy. Stores that deploy the software collect facial data about everyone coming and going from their properties without their consent. Images of shoplifters or alleged shoplifters can be shared among store locations to alert security departments about the potential criminals. As the law stands now, actual criminal convictions would not need to occur for a private business to label a person a threat permanently.

No rules or standards apply to how businesses collect or use the facial data that they collect. In one case, a store gave a local police department ongoing access to surveillance images so that law enforcement could watch people in the store without any restriction. This situation appears to circumvent legal protections against unwarranted searches and tracking. The Supreme Court of the United States recently affirmed that police need a warrant to follow people via cellphone location data.

Woman sentenced in 2018 drunk driving case

On March 26, a woman who was driving an ice cream truck while drunk was sentenced to six years in prison on a hit-and-run charge. She was also given an additional 10 days for being in contempt of court. The incident occurred on July 15, 2018, which is also known as National Ice Cream Day. At about 6:38 p.m., she hit a vehicle that had three people inside of it.

According to a witness, the vehicle hit a tree before driving off. The alleged offender was eventually found by police officers near the scene of the collision. The three people inside of the vehicle that the woman hit were taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. There were no details given as to why she was held in contempt of court, and she did not receive any prison time for the DWI charge that she originally faced.

White power posters lead to misdemeanor charge for Virginia man

A 21-year-old man has been charged with misdemeanor destruction of property after posting white supremacist literature throughout Vienna. According to media reports, his choice to place a poster on one of the town's utility boxes near Nutley Street and Maple Avenue caused him to run afoul of city rules. A lieutenant from the Vienna Police Department said that no one is allowed to attach notices to public property.

Although police received a tip about two men putting posters on light posts at a shopping center on Maple Avenue West, authorities only apprehended one man. Police released him after he signed his court summons.

How to prevent drunk driving

With the arrival of spring and a number of events and holidays, such as spring break, more people are expected to be on the roads in Virginia. Some of these drivers may be intoxicated while driving. However, there are a number of steps people can take to make sure that they and their friends are not impaired while behind the wheel.

One of the simplest and most effective steps is simply to not drink. People who are planning to go out with their friends could decide that they will not consume alcohol so that they will be the sober person in the group and able to serve as the designated driver.

More young adults being arrested than in previous decades

The current generation of young adults living in Virginia and across the U.S. are significantly more likely to be arrested than young people from previous generations, according to a new study by the nonprofit RAND Corporation. The study was published in the journal Crime & Delinquency.

RAND researchers analyzed data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which is the longest-running household survey in the United States. The survey monitored 35,000 individuals from 5,000 U.S. families for more than 50 years. By examining the data, researchers found that Americans between the ages of 26 and 35 were 3.6 times more likely to have been arrested at some point before the age of 26 than Americans over the age of 66. They also found that the arrest rates for white men and women of all ethnicities were rising the fastest. For example, white men are nearly three times as likely to be arrested now than they were when the survey began. Meanwhile, only 1 in 100 women over the age of 66 have an arrest record, while 1 in 7 women between the ages of 26 and 35 have one.

Call about suspicious car leads to the arrest of 4

A call about a suspicious vehicle during the early morning hours of Feb. 25 led to the arrest of two Virginia men according to a report from the Abingdon Police Department. The two 22-year-old men along with an 18-year-old North Carolina woman and a 23-year-old Tennessee woman were taken into custody and transported to the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority Abingdon Facility after police allegedly discovered drugs and drug paraphernalia in the white Subaru sedan.

According to an APD report, the officer dispatched to the Deadmore Street Southeast scene at approximately 5:46 a.m. became suspicious when he saw the occupants of the vehicle acting furtively. The officer says that one individual was pulling a hypodermic syringe from their arm and the others all appeared to be attempting to conceal items in the car. When additional officers arrived at the scene, the four individuals were ordered out of the vehicle and taken into custody.

Virginia man charged with DUI after flipping pickup truck

On Feb. 20, a 20-year-old Virginia man was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after he overturned his pickup truck in Stafford. The accident occurred at approximately 8:30 p.m.

Local media outlets report that the defendant was driving on the 3900 block of Jefferson Davis Highway when he flipped his pickup truck over and smashed into a sign. When police officers reached the scene, they discovered that the pickup was destroyed and that the defendant and his two passengers were not wearing seat belts. They also claimed that the defendant's breath smelled like alcohol. A witness told authorities that he had seen the pickup weaving around before the crash and watched the defendant toss a beer bottle out of the vehicle.

Antonella Barba facing federal drug charges

It has been reported that Antonella Barba is facing federal charges for her alleged participation in a drug conspiracy ring in Virginia. Barba was a contestant on "American Idol" in 2007 who was voted off before the top 12 contestants were selected.

Barba was originally charged in state court in October 2018 and was out on bond on that charge when the federal indictment was returned. She was taken into custody on the federal charges on Feb. 11. The charges are distribution of drugs and possession of drugs with the intent to distribute.

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