FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:July 7, 2014
Contact: Heather F. WilliamsonCommonwealth’s Attorney’s Office20 East Market StreetLeesburg, VA 20176-2809(703) 777-0242
COURT OF APPEALS UPHOLDS LOUDOUN COUNTY ORDINANCE
APPELLANT’S CONVICTION AFFIRMED
LEESBURG, Virginia – June 24, 2014. In an unpublished opinion by Chief Judge Walter S. Felton, Jr., the Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed the August 1, 2013 conviction of Dre Martina Roberts for hindering a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties.
The conviction arose from an incident that occurred in Sterling on February 8, 2013. Deputies responded to Roberts’ residence to investigate a complaint of domestic violence. Roberts refused to provide deputies with identification and shouted obscenities at them, demanding that they “get out of [her] house.” Roberts further refused to acknowledge any instructions given by the deputies. When deputies asked Roberts to confirm she understood what they were asking by providing a yes or no answer, Roberts responded “Yes or no answer.” Roberts was subsequently placed under arrest for hindering a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties, a violation of Loudoun County Ordinance 654.09.
Roberts’ attorney filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals of Virginia challenging Roberts’ criminal conviction asserting that the county ordinance does not define “hinder.” Attorneys for Roberts further argued that a suspect who fails to cooperate fully with a law enforcement officer or behaves in a way that makes the officer’s task more difficult, does not hinder that officer from performing the task. Roberts claimed she was not hindering the deputy; she was merely making it harder for him to perform his investigation.
Loudoun County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Sean P. Morgan presented arguments before the Court of Appeals panel in Alexandria that included Chief Judge Walter S. Felton, Judge Robert P. Frank and Judge Glen A. Huff.
Appeals from a trial court in Virginia are typically handled by the Office of the Attorney General. In this instance, since the violation was of a local ordinance and not the state code, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office defended the conviction on appeal. How hindering should be construed and sufficiency of the evidence regarding whether Roberts’ conduct constituted hindering were the primary topics of the oral argument.
“This is not only a significant win for Loudoun County, but for all local jurisdictions that wish to tighten the laws to prevent people from interfering in a law enforcement investigation,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman. “Further, it reinforces the position that local jurisdictions will take the necessary steps to aide and protect those that help keep our communities safe.”
The affirmation of the conviction means that Roberts must pay the $2,500 fine imposed by Judge Benjamin N. A. Kendrick on August 1, 2013, along with any court costs associated with the case unless further appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.. The decision also means that Roberts’ conviction will remain on her criminal record and that the validity of the Loudoun County Ordinance is supported as it relates to the specific issues presented.
(Attached separately: June 24, 2014 Unpublished Opinion from Court of Appeals of Virginia)