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Hall v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

January 9, 2018

TERRANCE KEVIN HALL
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

         FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF LYNCHBURG F. Patrick Yeatts, Judge

          Yvonne Z. Schewel (Yvonne Z. Schewel LLC, on brief), for appellant.

          John I. Jones, IV, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Chief Judge Huff, Judges Alston and AtLee Argued by teleconference

          OPINION

          RICHARD Y. ATLEE, JR., JUDGE

         A judge of the Circuit Court of the City of Lynchburg sentenced Terrance Kevin Hall to three mandatory minimum periods of incarceration in connection with his pleas of guilty to certain drug distribution offenses. On appeal, Hall argues that the circuit court erred when it imposed those mandatory minimum sentences. We disagree, and affirm.

         I. Background

         The evidence is undisputed. On three dates in late 2014, Hall sold cocaine. The Commonwealth charged him with three counts of distribution of cocaine, second or subsequent offense, in violation of Code § 18.2-248, and the circuit court later convicted him of those offenses.[1] Sentencing occurred in February 2017. On the day of sentencing, just before Hall's hearing was to begin, his attorney provided the Commonwealth a copy of a two-page summary of the three drug transactions that formed the basis for his charges. The document was handwritten by Hall, and the last paragraph stated:

I'm sorry I don't have any information as far as the supplier goes. The only knowledge I had of the man was a phone number. We did not really associate on a personal level[;] the relationship was purely business. I only called and placed an order and I'd meet him, that was the extent of our relationship. He would only be recognizable to me by sight.

         During the sentencing hearing, Hall moved the circuit court not to impose the mandatory minimum periods of incarceration ("the mandatory minimums") otherwise required upon a conviction of a second or subsequent offense of distribution of cocaine. Hall provided a written motion to the circuit court, which included the handwritten document as an attachment.

         Code § 18.2-248(C) contains a five-factor test ("the safety valve provision"). If a trial court finds that a defendant has complied with all five factors, the mandatory minimums do not apply. Hall's motion addressed each factor, and he argued that because he had satisfied all five factors, the mandatory minimums were inapplicable. The only factor about which the parties disagreed was subpart "e, " which requires that "[n]ot later than the time of the sentencing hearing, the person has truthfully provided to the Commonwealth all information and evidence the person has concerning the offense or offenses that were part of the same course of conduct or of a common scheme or plan." The circuit court denied Hall's motion, finding that "the motion is not timely and there has not been compliance with the statute." For each of the three counts of cocaine distribution, second or subsequent offense, the circuit court sentenced Hall to five years in the penitentiary, with two years suspended, for a total sentence on those charges of fifteen years in the penitentiary with six years suspended. Hall then noted this appeal.

         II. Analysis

         We review sentencing decisions for abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Greer, 63 Va.App. 561, 567, 760 S.E.2d 132, 135 (2014). When those decisions "involve the interpretation of a statute or the common law, such an interpretation is a question of law reviewed de novo on appeal." Id. at 568, 760 S.E.2d at 135. In this case, the circuit court convicted Hall of three counts of distribution of cocaine, second or subsequent offense, in violation of Code § 18.2-248(C). That subsection provides that any person convicted of a second or subsequent offense of distribution of cocaine "may, in the discretion of the court or jury imposing the sentence, be sentenced to imprisonment for life or for any period not less than five years, three years of which shall be a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment to be served consecutively with any other sentence." However, later in Code § 18.2-248(C), the safety valve provision states as follows:

The mandatory minimum term of imprisonment to be imposed for a violation of this subsection shall not be applicable if ...

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