In a recent drug case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal of his guilty conviction was denied. In his appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence used against him at trial was legally insufficient, given that the trial court considered evidence of a prior conviction as support for the sentencing in this second offense case. Disagreeing with the defendant, the court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with the intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl as a second offense. The defendant’s first offense occurred in 2001 when he was convicted of possession with the intent to distribute imitation cocaine.
At the defendant’s trial for this second charge, he filed a motion asking the court to exclude evidence of the first offense. The defendant knew that if the court included evidence of the prior offense, he would potentially receive an enhanced penalty for the second offense. According to the defendant, the two crimes were not substantially similar, so they should not be reviewed in the same trial. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion and ended up convicting the defendant of a second offense.
The defendant quickly appealed the trial court’s decision. He argued that all the Commonwealth of Virginia could prove was that he had committed a first-offense of drug possession and that the second-offense conviction was unfair because the court should not have been able to introduce evidence of the 2001 conviction.
The defendant’s argument revolved around the fact that his 2001 conviction was based on an imitation controlled substance (versus an actual controlled substance). The imitation controlled substance crime, said the defendant, was an “entirely different and lesser crime.” Because of this fact, the trial court should not have been able to use the 2001 offense as a qualifying “first offense”, and it was unreasonable then for the court to find him guilty of a second offense.
The higher court disagreed with the defendant. The court said that Virginia law is clear that it is unlawful to manufacture, sell, give, distribute, or possess a controlled substance or an imitation controlled substance. The statute does not specify that one is better or worse than the other. Because the defendant had a prior drug conviction, it was proper for the court to consider this conviction when deciding whether to convict him of a first or second offense. Since it was well established that the defendant was, in fact, found guilty of a drug crime in 2001, this prior conviction was appropriately introduced at trial.
Disagreeing with the defendant’s argument, the court affirmed the original guilty verdict as well as the enhanced penalties that come along with a second offense.
Have You Been Charged with Drug Crimes in Virginia?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime in Virginia, give us a call at Robinson Law, PLLC. We are here to serve and support you, providing you with unparalleled representation during what we know can be a stressful time. For a free consultation, give us a call at 703-542-3616.