Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Northern Virginia Criminal Law

The ongoing situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused significant concern throughout just about every segment of society. However, those caught up in the criminal justice system have their own set of concerns that will need to be addressed. While many areas of commerce and life have slowed down, arrests will still be made and people will still be jailed. This can be a difficult time to be in jail- many are experiencing lock-downs and suspending visitation, and inmates are housed in close-quarters. These are real concerns for inmates and their families.

For those held pre-trial, they reasonably want out. Our attorneys, Farheena Siddiqui and Brian Szmak, are committed to providing quality representation to those are are charged, arrested or incarcerated – especially – in trying times.

Court Closures (Updated 5/7/2020)

Local and state-wide closures and schedule changes will affect both civil and criminal cases. While all cases are important, the effect on criminal cases can be especially impactful, because of the nature and effect of criminal charges. The exact status of each court varies by jurisdiction (Arlington County, City of Alexandria, Loudoun County, Fairfax County, Prince William County) and court level (Juvenile and Domestic Relations, General District Court, Circuit Court).

Virginia Supreme Court

The Virginia Supreme Court on, May 6, issued a Fourth Order extending the judicial emergency until June 8, 2020 at least. You may also view the First, Second, and Third Orders for reference. These Orders affect all courts in the Commonwealth. Among other things these Orders:

  • Tolls and extends “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…” excluding discovery deadlines
  • State that “All discovery issued with a deadline to respond during the judicial emergency shall be due within twenty-one (21) days of the effective date of this Order (May18, 2020).”
  • “[C]ontinue[s] all civil, traffic and criminal matters, including jury trials, except for emergency and other matters as provided in this Order.”
  • Tolls all “deadlines imposed by the Speedy Trial Act, Va. Code § 19.2-243, … during the ongoing Period of Judicial Emergency (March 16, 2020, through June 7, 2020).”
  • Gives precedence to “quarantine or isolation matters, criminal arraignments, bail reviews, protective order cases, emergency child custody or protection cases, civil commitment hearings, petitions for temporary injunctive relief, proceedings related to emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable persons, petitions for appointment of a guardian or conservator, and proceedings necessary to safeguard applicable constitutional protections.”
  • Encourages electronic communications for proceedings, when available and appropriate.

Local Jurisdictions

Alexandria

Pursuant to a third Circuit Court Memorandum ( Prior Memorandum), all criminal trials and motions are suspended through June 12, 2020, in accordance with the Virginia Supreme Court Order. Exceptions are made for emergency matters, to include Quarantine or isolation matters Arraignments, Bail Review, Protective Order Cases, Emergency Child Custody and Protection Cases, Civil Commitment Hearings, and Guardian/conservator hearings. Certain Criminal motions and hearings may be done electronically at request of the parties- such as plea agreements.

If you have a case in the General District Court, please see this Order which can help you determine the status of your case, which will depend on whether you are represented or not, what kind of case it is, and how far along it is.

Arlington

In Arlington Circuit Court, pursuant to a Court Order,

  • All Cases set for April 15, 16, and 20 will remain on that date to reset the case.
  • Cases on the docket for Monday – Thursday of April 20-30 will be heard on April 27 to reset the cases.
  • Cases on the docket for Monday – Thursday of May 4-28 will be heard on April 27 to reset the cases.
  • These hearings may be done by telephone.
Fairfax

Pursuant to a Memorandum of March 17, 2020, all criminal cases originally set to be heard through April 17, 2020 are continued, and set for a May 21, 2020 status hearing/term day at 10:00 AM.

While not yet noted by the Court, these dates are likely to be further extended.

Eastern District of Virginia (Federal Court)

By General Order (Prior Order) of the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA), all trials, hearings and settlement conferences set to be heard (in- person) before June 10 are postponed, and will be rescheduled. The Court is also moving to expand use of remote hearings (telephone and video), when necessary. This date is subject to change by subsequent order.

Bond Motions

In many courts, Bond Motions are one of the few regular orders of business that will remain on the docket more or less as usual. This is an opportunity to get you or your loved one back home during this usual period of uncertainty. If a Bond Motion has been previously denied, the changing circumstances of the current situation may mean that the chances of a new motion being granted are somewhat higher.

What to do?

In all likelihood, this situation will remain dynamic- which will mean confusion for many of the people most impacted. If you need to know what is happening in your case, or the case of a family member, please contact our office for a free consultation.

If you or a family member have been arrested, we are here to help. If you or a family member are being held without bond, contact our office to talk about the options for filing a Bond Motion to seek release.