On January 13, 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court handed down two opinions that should prove to be of immense benefit to criminal defense lawyers.
In the first opinion, Roseborough v. Commonwealth, Record No. 100507, the Virginia Supreme Court held that the Virginia Implied Consent law is implicated in all circumstances where a defendant accused of drunk driving is asked to submit to a breath test. In this case, the Supreme Court found that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence a Certificate of Analysis because the officer had made an invalid warrantless arrest. Consequently, the logic of the holding will allow criminal defense lawyers to argue that the statutory requirements of the implied consent law must be strictly followed, or the results of the breath test will be inadmissible in Court.
In the second opinion, Hernandez v. Commonwealth, Record No. 092524, the Virginia Supreme Court held that a Circuit Court judge has the inherent authority to enter a deferred disposition for any type of case. In its holding, the Supreme Court determined that the act of entering judgment is more than a ministerial act and therefore the Court determined that judges are not obligated to enter a judgment of guilt even if the evidence supports a finding of guilt. This case will open the door for defense attorneys in appropriate cases to seek probation, community services and alternative ways of addressing the problem without the need for entry of a criminal conviction on their client’s record.
Collectively, these opinions provide new legal authority for savvy criminal defense lawyers to help defend and assist their clients.