25 September 2008

Virginia Supreme Court Decisions
(includes Spam decision)

Logan v. Commonwealth (No. 072342) 4th Amendment - Probation

A person on probation is charged with a crime. The charge is dismissed after the Virginia Court of Appeals, en banc, decided that the search violated the 4th Amendment. The Commonwealth did not appeal this (because, if you can't win in our Court of Appeals en banc you can't win anywhere). Then the Commonwealth filed a probation violation against the person. The trial judge allowed the evidence of the fruits of the search into the probation hearing. The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction stating that the 4th Amendment does not apply to probation hearings.

Held: The 4th Amendment does apply to probation hearings. Reversed.

---------- ---------- ----------

McMorris v. Commonwealth (No. 072247) Robbery - Principle in the Second Degree

Defendant took part in the mass beating of an individual. During the beating the individual's wallet was stolen. He was convicted by the trial judge of robbery because "This was all contemporaneous." The Court of Appeals refused to hear an appeal on the conviction stating that "the evidence established that McMorris shared the criminal intent of those who did steal Ottey's telephone and other items."

Held: Taking part in a mass beat down does not have as "a natural and probable consequence of the intended wrongful act" the intent to rob. Reversed.

There's a very good discussion in this case of what a principle in the second degree is in Virginia.

---------- ---------- ----------

Jaynes v. Commonwealth (No. 062388) Internet Spam - Jurisdiction - 1st Amendment - Standing - Trespass - Narrow Tailoring - Overbreadth - Narrow Construction

Out of State Defendant convicted of violating Virginia's anti-spam statute.

Held: (1) Jurisdiction is valid because all of AOL's servers are in Virginia and this is common knowledge.

(2) The Virginia Supreme Court quotes the Commonwealth's own stipulations during a prior argument before the federal supreme court and finds that Virginia cannot limit access to constitutional protections to fewer people than the federal government allows.

(3) While trespass may be a valid theory in a civil suit, it does not apply in a case involving the government because governments must answer to the 1st Amendment.

(4) The mere fact that someone sends an anonymous email cannot be illegal because anonymous political speech is protected political discourse. Unlike other States, Virginia has not limited this statute to commercial speech. Therefore, the statute is not sufficiently narrowly drawn.

(5) While mere overbreadth is not enough, this statute is substantially overbroad. It "would prohibit all bulk e-mail containing anonymous political, religious, or other expressive speech. For just being published today example, were the Federalist Papers via e-mail, that transmission by Publius would violate the statute."

(6) The Supreme Court refuses the Commonwealth's invitation to narrow the application of the statute so that it only applies if the internet service provider objects or the emails contain criminal activity, defamation, or obscenity. Rewriting a statute is the province of the General Assembly and mere construction of this statute cannot reach as far as the Commonwealth urges.


Wow. This case is a tour de force by the Virginia Supreme Court. It's 28 pages and not an inch of fluff in it (the federal supreme court would have wasted at least 75 pages on something like this). I don't like the result, but really can't argue with the reasoning.

1 comment:

DJMooreTX said...

Ken, your assessment and summary of Jaynes, and the VA Supreme Court's understanding of the separation of powers, gets my (non-lawyer's) Quote of the Day.