Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Robinson v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

April 3, 2018



          Rachel D. Robinson, Assistant Public Defender (Elizabeth Jean Lancaster, Deputy Public Defender, on briefs), for appellant.

          Christopher P. Schandevel, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Chief Judge Huff, Judges Humphreys and O'Brien Argued at Fredericksburg, Virginia



         Donald Dravell Robinson ("appellant") appeals the sentence imposed by the Circuit Court of Loudoun County ("trial court") after his conviction for possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance in violation of Code § 18.2-250. Appellant's sole assignment of error is that the trial court erred "in admitting the sentencing order from the Fairfax County Circuit Court as such order included information about a charge for which Mr. Robinson was not convicted." For the following reasons, this Court affirms the sentence imposed by the trial court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On appeal, "we consider the evidence and all reasonable inferences flowing from that evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party at trial." Williams v. Commonwealth, 49 Va.App. 439, 442, 642 S.E.2d 295, 296 (2007) (en banc) (quoting Jackson v. Commonwealth, 267 Va. 666, 672, 594 S.E.2d 595, 598 (2004)). So viewed, the evidence is as follows.

         A Loudoun County Sheriff's deputy arrested appellant for public intoxication on May 22, 2015, and a search incident to arrest revealed drug paraphernalia and a substance later determined to be cocaine. Appellant was tried by a jury on charges of public intoxication and possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance. While the jury deliberated on the question of appellant's guilt, counsel for both parties and the trial court discussed exhibits the Commonwealth intended to admit during the sentencing phase.

         The prosecutor expressed his intention to introduce evidence of four prior convictions, including one from Fairfax County. Defense counsel objected to the admission of the Fairfax County order unless it was redacted to remove "any reference to the charge that he was charged with but not convicted of." The order in question referenced the fact that the Commonwealth had indicted appellant for felony grand larceny, but later amended the indictment to reduce the charge to petit larceny. Appellant pled guilty and was convicted on that lesser charge. The prosecutor argued that the entire, unredacted final order should be admitted in compliance with Code § 19.2-295.1. Appellant's counsel argued that leaving information about the felony charge would be "misleading" to the jury. The trial court overruled appellant's objection and admitted the final order in its entirety. The jury ultimately found appellant guilty of possession of a controlled substance, but not guilty of public intoxication.

         Neither side called any witnesses during sentencing, but both sides argued for what they thought were appropriate sentences. After pointing out that the sentencing range for appellant's conviction was one to ten years of incarceration, the Commonwealth requested a sentence of two years. Appellant's counsel argued that a sentence over twelve months would be excessive and asked the jury to limit appellant's punishment to a fine. After a brief deliberation, the jury delivered a verdict fixing appellant's sentence at twelve months' incarceration and a $2, 500 fine. The trial court imposed the jury's sentence, and this appeal followed.


         Courts in Virginia have long recognized that "[t]he scope of testimony in the sentencing phase is wide, and the standard for exclusion of relevant evidence is whether the prejudicial effect substantially outweighs its probative value. This is a matter of discretion for the circuit court and is . . . reviewed [for] abuse of discretion . . . ." Prieto v. Commonwealth, 283 Va. 149, 168, 721 S.E.2d 484, 496 (2012) (citation omitted). Under this standard, the trial judge's ruling "will not be reversed simply because an appellate court disagrees." Thomas v. Commonwealth, 44 Va.App. 741, 753, 607 S.E.2d 738, 743 (quoting Henry J. Friendly, Indiscretion about Discretion, 31 Emory L.J. 747, 754 (1982)), adopted upon reh'g en banc, 45 Va.App. 811, 613 S.E.2d 870 (2005). Instead, "[o]nly when reasonable jurists could not differ can [this Court] say an abuse of discretion has occurred." Id. A trial court, however, "by definition abuses its discretion when it makes an error of law." Dean v. Commonwealth, 61 Va.App. 209, 213, 734 S.E.2d 673, 675 (2012) (quoting Porter v. Commonwealth, 276 Va. 203, 260, 661 S.E.2d 415, 445 (2008)). Therefore, any abuse of discretion review must ensure "that the discretion was not guided by erroneous legal conclusions." Id. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.