In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the lower court’s ruling in favor of the defendant was reversed. Originally, the trial court had suppressed incriminating evidence found against the defendant. When reviewing this decision, the higher court determined that the motion to suppress should not have been granted, and they reversed the decision, ruling against the defendant in the case.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, an officer received a call one afternoon notifying him of a black car “riding around” and “selling drugs.” While patrolling, the officer found a car matching the description parked next to an apartment complex. When the officer asked several people on the sidewalk if they knew to whom the car belonged, they responded that the driver lived in one of the apartments in the complex. The officer decided to go straight to the apartment to investigate.
A person who did not live in the apartment, but who was babysitting, opened the door for the officer when he approached the unit. When the officer saw the babysitter, he noticed that her eyes were glossy and that she appeared to be very nervous. The officer noticed that behind the babysitter were a small child and a man who appeared to be passed out on the coffee table.
Searching the apartment, the officer came across the defendant in this case. He was lying in bed with a pill bottle on his nightstand and a bag of marijuana next to him. There was also a black container with drugs in the general vicinity, near where the small child was playing. Additionally, the officer found a bottle containing methamphetamine in the common area of the apartment complex.
The defendant was later indicted with possession of a controlled substance.
At trial, the lower court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence of drugs. On appeal, the Commonwealth challenged this ruling.
The defendant argued that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment. Because the officer did not have a warrant to enter, the evidence of drugs was rightly suppressed at trial. According to the defendant, even though he was not leasing the apartment, he was using his friend’s apartment as a place of rest during the day. Because of his status as a guest of the unit, he could reasonably expect to have privacy in the apartment. Thus, said the defendant, the officer infringed on his constitutional rights by barging into the home without a warrant.
The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately rejected it. According to the court, there was no evidence in the record showing that the defendant was a friend who had been given permission to sleep in the apartment during the day. There was no proof that the defendant knew the lessee of the apartment, nor that the lessee was even aware that the defendant in the apartment.
Because the record had no evidence establishing a relationship between the defendant and the person living in the apartment, the court determined that the defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment. Thus, said the court, the lower court incorrectly granted the motion to suppress. The higher court reversed this ruling and sent the matter back down to the trial court.
Are You Facing Drug Charges in Virginia?
If you or a loved one is facing Virginia drug charges, give us a call at Robinson Law, PLLC. We represent both adults and juveniles facing all misdemeanor and felony charges across northern Virginia. Our 50 years of combined experience makes us experts in the field, and we are ready to build the best possible defense for your individual circumstances. For a free consultation, call us at 703-542-3616.