In a recent opinion in a Virginia drug case, the court granted the Commonwealth’s request for a new verdict. Originally, a lower court had suppressed incriminating evidence found in the defendant’s car, maintaining that the evidence should not be used because the officer’s decision to conduct the traffic stop was unjustified. The Commonwealth appealed, pointing to an agreement the defendant had signed a few months prior to the traffic stop in which he waived all rights against unreasonable searches from police officers. The court ultimately saw the agreement as valid, deciding to allow the incriminating evidence to be brought in against the defendant.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was driving in Virginia when an officer stopped him, citing the reason for the stop as a defective brake light. After having stopped the defendant, the officer searched the vehicle and found heroin in the car. Based on this evidence, the defendant was later indicted for possession of a controlled substance.
Later, video footage revealed that the defendant’s brake light was not actually defective but that the officer just used this language as an excuse to stop the defendant when he had no legitimate reason to do so. After discovering this information, the defendant asked the court to suppress the incriminating evidence that the officer found in his vehicle, as the officer did not actually have a valid justification for the traffic stop. Because, according to the defendant, the stop should not have happened in the first place, the Commonwealth should not be able to use that evidence against him. The court granted the defendant’s request, and the heroin was not used to advance the Commonwealth’s case at trial. The defendant’s case was dismissed, and at the end of trial, he was free to go.
The Commonwealth appealed the decision, arguing that the incriminating evidence should not have been suppressed. The Commonwealth agreed with the court that the traffic stop was illegitimate and that the officer did not have a reason to stop the defendant in the first place. In its argument, the Commonwealth focused its attention elsewhere by pointing to an agreement that the defendant had signed a few months prior to the traffic stop. In the agreement, the defendant had pled guilty to other unrelated drug charges, and he had agreed to submit to a period of “probation” for two years. Under this probation, the defendant waived his rights against any unreasonable searches of his private property. Thus, according to the Commonwealth, the defendant had already agreed to the officer’s search, and anything the officer found during the search was admissible in court.
The court agreed with the Commonwealth. Even though the officer’s stop was unreasonable, the defendant had voluntarily agreed to waive any rights to an unreasonable search a few months prior to the traffic stop. The “plain language” of the agreement was clear, according to the court. Thus, the original dismissal of the defendant’s charges was reversed.
Have You Been Charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance in Virginia?
For many defendants in Virginia, a seemingly ordinary traffic stop can quickly turn into an arrest for controlled substance charges. If you or a loved one has been convicted of a drug crime, you may have legal defenses that can help your case. At Robinson Law, our Virginia criminal defense attorneys will walk you through your options and make sure your voice is heard. For a free and confidential consultation, call Robinson Law at 703-542-3616.