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Leesburg Criminal Law Blog

"Crime fighting" apps may promote racism and fear

A number of apps are widely touted as increasing neighborhood awareness and preventing crime in Virginia and across the country. However, critics note that the apps have shown little to no evidence that they actually have any impact on crime rates. On the other hand, they argue that these apps are more likely to promote racial stereotyping, vigilantism and unsupported fears about the surrounding world. Crime statistics have dropped precipitously in the past 25 years, and violent crimes are far less common than they were in the past. Still, many people believe that their neighborhoods are more dangerous despite statistical evidence.

Some critics have highlighted sensationalized media coverage about crime as well as the lingering effects of racism and stereotypes as underlying reasons for these beliefs. Others note that apps like Nextdoor, Citizen or even Ring Doorbells may help to stoke fear rather than reassuring people that all is well at their homes. These types of apps offer different features but generally promote themselves as supporting community vigilance that can decrease crime. For example, Citizen, previously known as Vigilante, prompts people to livestream videos and discuss potential threats.

Virginia man detained after $30k in drugs found

Police in Henry County detained a 31-year-old man after his residence was searched as part of an undercover operation. Deputies of the Henry County Sheriff's office searched the man's home after search warrants were executed. The man is suspected of running a meth house.

The undercover operation focused on the distribution of heroin and meth in the area. Upon searching the man's home, police reportedly confiscated three-quarters of a pound of meth, a small quantity of marijuana, a quarter-pound of heroin, $2,200 in cash and 26 firearms. The drugs are estimated to have a street value of $30,000. Police said in a statement that the drugs would be sent to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science for further analysis.

Virginia Beach ranks among top cities for DUI arrests

Virginia Beach ranks among the country's top 10 communities for people convicted of drunk driving, according to one report by an insurance quote company. The city comes in at No. 10 on a list ranking urban areas by the number of drivers who have gotten DUIs on their records. Local officials said that they were troubled but not surprised by the result, noting that there are a large number of drunk driving arrests that take place every year in the city. In addition, local police often focus heavily on sobriety checkpoints and other tactics that lead to more drunk-driving arrests.

Officials emphasized that DUI enforcement is a major priority for Virginia Beach police, indicating that the ranking may not necessarily indicate a higher number of drunk drivers but a higher number of arrests. The city operates frequent checkpoints that test each passing driver for intoxication. In addition, it has a 10-person special operations team that rotates DUI enforcement duties on a regular basis. It also receives an additional grant from the Virginia DMV every year that pays overtime wages for 30 police to dedicate time exclusively to drunk driving enforcement.

Black, white Americans see law enforcement differently

Pew Research Center surveys and other studies have looked at attitudes toward crime, police and punishment and found that black respondents tend to be more concerned about crime in their communities than white respondents. White Americans in Virginia and throughout the country may be more likely to report satisfaction with the job performance of police than black Americans.

Fewer than two-thirds of white adults surveyed said that the criminal justice system treated blacks less fairly than whites while almost 90% of black respondents agreed with this statement. The survey also found that 63% of white respondents compared to 84% of black respondents said that law enforcement also treated blacks less fairly. This is supported by a 2017 study in which respondents were asked to rate their feelings about police on a temperature scale where 100 was the warmest and most positive. The mean rating given by white respondents for police was 72 while it was 47 for black respondents.

Virginia judge sentences man to 10 years on drug charges

A judge in Virginia sentenced a 39-year-old man to 10 years in a federal prison on May 7 for conspiring to distribute and possessing with the intention of distributing more than five kilograms of cocaine. The man's sentencing hearing came after a jury found him guilty of the narcotics charges. He was taken into custody in July 2018 by officers from the Norfolk Police Department working with Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

According to a Justice Department press release, the case was investigated as part of Operation Goodfellas, which was a multi-state narcotics probe conducted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. One of the operation's targets was a drug trafficking operation based in California and Mexico that made two large cocaine shipments to Norfolk in June and July of 2018. Court documents reveal that the man was observed by officers and agents retrieving drugs and cash on two occasions.

Low-carb diets could lead to problems with roadside breath tests

The ketogenic diets that have recently become popular in Virginia might fool the portable breath-testing technology used by most police departments, according to some scientists. While research into the phenomenon is sparse, individuals following low-carb diets have been known to find it extremely difficult to start vehicles equipped with ignition interlock devices.

These issues arise because ignition interlocks and portable breath-testing units rely on fuel cell technology that may not always be able to differentiate between ethanol alcohol present in the breath of individuals who have been drinking and isopropyl alcohol that is a byproduct of ketosis. Ketosis is the metabolic state that low-carbohydrate diets are designed to induce. The body goes into ketosis when its glucose stores have been consumed and the liver burns body fat to provide energy. Isopropyl alcohol is a byproduct of this fat-burning process.

Police say Virginia man facing drug charges attempted to flee

A 36-year-old man faces a raft of felony and misdemeanor counts after being taken into custody on April 23 by investigators from a regional drug task force. Media reports indicate that the man is being held without bond at the Middle River Regional Jail. According to a press release from the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, the investigation into the man's alleged activities is ongoing, and more charges could be filed against him.

Investigators from the Skyline Drug Task Force apprehended the man on an outstanding arrest warrant for distributing methamphetamine. Officers claim that the man attempted to flee the scene on foot when they approached. They say he was captured after a short pursuit. An inventory of the man's possessions is said to have led to the discovery of undisclosed quantities of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs.

Drugged driving enforcement looks to e-warrants and blood tests

Police officers have long relied on breath tests to detect alcohol use among drivers. The increasing use of opioids and marijuana, both legal and otherwise, has complicated detection of impaired drivers. Blood testing can detect these drugs, but drawing blood requires a search warrant, unlike a breath test. According to a nonprofit organization based in Virginia, 45 states have laws or court rules that enable the issuance of electronic search warrants by telephone, video or other electronic means.

Police departments in some regions have taken advantage of the ability to obtain fast e-warrants while detaining suspects during traffic stops. On-call judges can approve warrants within minutes, and police officers trained to draw blood can extract samples and run tests at the scene of the traffic stop.

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.

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