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Leesburg Criminal Law Blog

Key facts about Virginia's aggravated assault charge

It is not uncommon for people to get angry at each other, or to engage in heated conversations. However, when those instances escalate to physical altercations, individuals may face serious criminal charges.

In order to build a strong defense, defendants should understand certain aspects about what they face. There are a few key facts to understand regarding Virginia's aggravated assault charges.

Virginia drugs investigation leads to more than 100 indictments

A major narcotics investigation has led to the indictment of 74 individuals who authorities believe are members of a drug and weapons trafficking organization that distributed illegal firearms and significant quantities of methamphetamine throughout southwest Virginia. Police believe that the organization's reach stretched from bases in Mouth of Wilson and Whitetop in Grayson County to parts of Smyth, Roanoke and Washington counties in Virginia and Alleghany and Ashe counties in North Carolina.

During the course of the drug trafficking investigation, officers, deputies and agents gathered evidence by conducting undercover drug buys, executing search warrants, interviewing suspects and keeping individuals of interest under surveillance. These efforts led to the seizure of drugs, guns and stolen property and the identification of dozens of suspects.

Man sentenced for running meth ring out of Virginia prison

A federal judge recently sentenced a man to 235 months in prison for operating a methamphetamine ring out of a southwest Virginia prison. The 31-year-old defendant is a resident of Georgia.

According to court documents, the defendant was serving time in a Virginia prison on a separate meth-related conviction when he launched a meth trafficking ring out of the facility. He reportedly confessed to conspiring with five other people to transport meth from Georgia to Virginia in order to distribute it to local consumers. The drug ring was in operation for more than a year.

Virginia overdose death prompts narcotics investigation

The 2017 death of a 22-year-old Virginia resident from a fentanyl overdose prompted a narcotics investigation that led to the discovery and seizure of heroin worth $35,000 and the indictment of 16 suspects, according to a press release from the Amherst County Sheriff's Office. Law enforcement has apprehended 12 of the suspects and is actively searching for the other four. The ACSO was assisted in what was named "Operation Ghost Raptor" by the Virginia State Police, the Lynchburg Police Department and the Campbell and Appomattox County Sheriff's Offices. The investigation is said to be ongoing.

During an intensive three-week undercover narcotics investigation, deputies and officers are said to have identified several locations that were used by the suspects to store and distribute illegal drugs. Searches of these locations allegedly led to the discovery of about 5 ounces of heroin. The evidence gathered suggests that the drugs were brought into Virginia from New Jersey. The U.S. Marshals Service has been called in to assist with the search for suspects who may have left Virginia.

Judges may be guilty of unconscious bias

Many people in Virginia and throughout America are influenced by unconscious biases. In other words, they make decisions or form opinions on issues based on information processed in their subconscious. Research has indicated that judges tend to make decisions as much on feel as they do on the facts in a case. This may result in harsher sentences being handed down to black or LGBTQ defendants.

In a case in Boston, roughly three dozen people were taken into custody after participating in protests against right-wing marchers in a straight pride parade. Although the prosecutor requested that the charges be dropped, the judge in the case declined to do so. Generally speaking, judges will trust the decisions that prosecutors make in such scenarios. It is possible that the judge overseeing the case involving these protesters was acting on an unconscious bias against members of the LGBTQ community.

Blood spatter analysis called into question

Blood spatter may be a factor in the evidence introduced in homicide, assault and other cases involving violent crimes in Virginia. This kind of analysis of bloodstains has been featured on TV shows like "CSI" and has played a major role in securing convictions in several high-profile murder cases. However, the field of science is being questioned by other experts who say that blood spatter analysis does not produce the kind of certainty required to jail or even execute people for a crime.

Some form of blood spatter analysis has been used since the 1800s, but it has been cited in some modern cases, such as O.J. Simpson and Phil Spector. The idea behind this analysis is to use blood drips, spatters and other traces to reconstruct the crime scene and place people in different spaces in the area. The National Academy of Sciences brought this form of analysis into question in 2009 with a report accusing the practice of a lack of scientific rigor and proper accreditation. While there may, indeed, be lessons to be learned from blood patterns at a homicide scene, poorly trained experts may have different analyses that enable them to work backward from a conclusion rather than the other way around.

Medical condition can elevate BAC levels in nondrinkers

Motorists in Virginia and around the country can be charged with driving while under the influence when they get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. Prosecutors usually rely on toxicology test results to establish that a DUI suspect was impaired, but blood and breath analysis does not always tell the complete story. This is because there is a rare medical condition that can elevate blood alcohol levels substantially even when those who suffer from it consume no alcohol at all.

The condition is known as auto-brewery syndrome. Bacteria or fungi in the digestive tracts of ABS sufferers produce alcohol by fermenting carbohydrates, and bouts of the condition are sometimes brought on simply by taking antibiotics. The British Medical Journal published a case study in August about a 46-year-old man who developed ABS after taking an antibiotic medication for three weeks to treat a thumb injury.

Virginia narcotics investigation leads to 9 arrests

A narcotics investigation in Virginia dubbed 'Operation Trap Door" resulted in the apprehension of nine suspects and the seizure of illegal drugs worth about $2.1 million. The Virginia State Police announced the arrests and seizures during an Oct. 16 press conference held at the New River Criminal Justice Training Academy in Dublin. The VSP were assisted in the investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The multi-jurisdictional investigation into drug trafficking activities lasted for two years and led police to two residences in Floyd County. When search warrants were executed at the homes, police are said to have discovered 31 pounds of methamphetamine, 6 pounds of cocaine and an undisclosed quantity of counterfeit prescription opioid pills. A VSP representative said that the pills likely contain fentanyl and appear similar to pills that have been linked to several recent overdose deaths in the area. More than 20 firearms were also seized during the operation.

The impact community service has on low-income areas

Virginia residents who are convicted of minor crimes are often ordered to perform community service. Community service is intended to provide judges with a humane alternative to incarceration for offenders who lack the means to pay fines and court fees, but the results of a study conducted recently by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles suggest that being ordered to work without pay actually makes life worse for these offenders.

The researchers studied the cases of 5,000 individuals who were ordered to perform community service in 2013 and 2014, and they concluded that the 8 million hours of unpaid work performed could have provided employment for 4,900 people. The researchers also found that the dollar value of the work performed often far exceeded the fines imposed. The average community service order required 100 hours of unpaid work, which is equivalent to almost three weeks of full-time employment. More than one in four of the cases studied involved offenders who were sentenced to 155 or more hours of community service.

Former Virginia Tech player cleared of drug charges

On Oct. 10, a former Virginia Tech basketball player was cleared of a drug charge that was leveled against him in March. He is now playing for Texas Tech.

According to media reports, the 23-year-old defendant and his roommate, who was also a Virginia Tech player, were charged with drug possession after marijuana was found in their apartment on March 20. However, the defendant's attorney successfully contested the charge, claiming that police did not prove the drugs belonged to his client. As a result, the case was thrown out of court.

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