Virginia Supreme Court – Suppression of Evidence

Criminal cases in Virginia frequently involve issues related to Motions to Suppress Evidence.  Some of these cases are handled by Virginia attorneys, including Virginia Federal Lawyers.  Many of these cases involve the application of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.  Recently, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed a conviction due to suppression issues.  The case was Brooks v. Commonwealth, Record No. 091047.  This Court came on Appeal from the Petersburg Circuit Court, in the Richmond VA area.

The Court articulated some important principles related to suppression of evidence.  The Fourth Amendment guarantees, in relevant part, “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. Warrantless searches of a person’s home are presumptively unreasonable. Glenn, 275 Va. at 130, 654 S.E.2d at 913 (citing Payton v. New York, 445 U.S.573, 586 (1980)). However, “[i]t is . . . well settled that one of the specifically established exceptions to the requirements of . . . a warrant and probable cause is a search that is conducted pursuant to consent.” Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219 (1973). “The standard for measuring the scope of a suspect’s consent under the Fourth Amendment is that of ‘objective’ reasonableness – what would the typical reasonable person have understood by the exchange between the officer and the suspect?” Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248, 251 (1991). “The scope of a search is generally defined by its expressed object.”

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478 (1966), the Supreme Court of the United States held that “when an individual is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom by the authorities in any significant way and
is subjected to questioning, the privilege against self-incrimination is jeopardized.” In such situations, a Miranda warning must be given to protect the privilege and the individual’s “right to the presence of an attorney . . . prior to any questioning if he so desires.” Id. at 478-79. In assessing whether the interrogation was custodial, we inquire “whether there [was] a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest.” California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). We determine custody “based on how a reasonable person in the suspect’s situation would perceive his circumstances.” Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 662 (2004).

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