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How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Affecting Virginia Criminal Courts

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:

  • Quarantine or isolation matters
  • Arraignments
  • Bail reviews
  • Protective order cases

In addition, the order allows a judge to use their discretion when handling cases where the defendant is incarcerated. This allows for at least some flexibility for those who were in custody at the time the order was implemented. However, in the Court’s March 27 order extending the duration of the judicial emergency, the court ordered that “routine proceedings,” such as a motion to lift an “illegal detainer,” must be continued. The Court also removed the language allowing a judge to use their discretion when handling cases for incarcerated defendants. The effect of this order remains to be seen, as it will not take effect until the initial order expires on April 6.

Under the March 27 order, “all applicable deadlines, time schedules, and filing requirements, including any applicable statute of limitations which would otherwise run during the period this order is in effect, are hereby tolled and extended.” Clearly, this will have an impact in those cases in which the defendant’s right to a speedy trial is in question. However, it appears from the court’s language in the order, that the Court’s intention is that the time during the judicial emergency will not count against the prosecution.

Contact a Dedicated Virginia Criminal Defense Law Firm for Immediate Assistance During the COVID-19 Emergency

If you or a loved one are currently in custody pending an open criminal matter, contact the dedicated Virginia criminal defense lawyers at Robinson Law, PLLC. At Robinson Law, we are still working and doing everything we can to represent our clients while abiding by the Governor’s stay-at-home order. We are actively involved in trying to get as many of our clients out of custody as possible, knowing that the court closures may be extended indefinitely. To learn more about how we can help you or your loved one during the crisis, please call 703-542-4008. We handle all types of cases, including Virginia drug offenses, gun cases, and others. You can also contact us online through our website. In either case, you will not need to come into our office, as we will happily discuss your situation over the phone.

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