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Articles Posted in Court Procedure

The Commonwealth has various statutes that govern Virginia gun offenses. The statutes delineate what constitutes a weapon or firearm, who can possess the weapon, and what processes the owner must go through to obtain and maintain a firearm legally. Further, criminal laws address what actions constitute a Virginia weapons offense and the commiserate punishment for violating a statute. These laws typically involve the complicated interplay between various statutes, and it is essential that those accused of a Virginia gun offense contact a dedicated criminal defense attorney.

For example, recently, the Court of Appeals of Virginia issued an opinion in the combined appeals of two defendants arguing that Virginia’s successive prosecution code bars their prosecutions for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In this case, two defendants argued that the court should dismiss their convictions for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.

At issue was Virginia Code section 19.2-294, which covers dual charging. The code addresses limiting prosecutions in cases where double jeopardy is irrelevant. Specifically, if a defendant’s act is a “violation of two or more statutes or two or more ordinances,” conviction under one of the statutes or ordinances “shall be a bar to a prosecution proceeding under the other or others.” Moreover, if the offense is a violation of a statute and federal statute, prosecution under the federal statute will bar prosecution under the state statute. The statute is designed to prevent an accused from multiple prosecutions. However, unlike double jeopardy rules, the statute does not consider the elements of an offense, and instead limits prosecution to an act instead of a crime. It only applies if there has been a “conviction,” not just a proceeding or prosecution.

The Coronavirus pandemic has shut down much of society, including many courts across the country. While any court closure has an impact on those with pending cases, the closing of a criminal court – where many of those who are impacted are in custody – raises obvious concerns.

On March 16, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an order declaring a judicial emergency. In effect, the order suspended all deadlines and closed the courts for all non-emergency, non-essential functions. Initially, the order was for 21 days, and was set to expire on April 6. However, on March 27, the Chief Justice issued another order extending the judicial emergency until April 26.

Under the original order, all non-essential, non-emergency proceedings are to be continued. This means that all jury trials and trials held in front of a judge will be continued until at least April 26. However, the Court’s order does allow for specific procedures to continue. For example, the following hearings and proceedings can still be conducted during the judicial emergency:

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