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Entrenched ways of prosecuting in Northern Virginia have been engrained in the Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney's office, starting with chief prosecutor Robert Horan from the 1960's and continuing with his successor and former deputy Ray Morrogh; in Arlington, going back to chief prosecutor Helen Fahey from the 1980's, followed by Richard Trodden and then his preferred candidate Theo Stamos; in Loudoun, through fifteen years with Jim Plowman (soon becoming a Circuit Court judge) and his now short-term successor and interim commonwealth's attorney Nicole Wittmann; and in Prince William, with Paul Ebert at the helm since the late 1960's. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I have never defended with an expectation that I would not be dealing with many tough prosecutors, but instead with the knowledge that even the most intransigent-seeming prosecutor can be turned around at times, and that negotiations always must come from a position of strength, because going to trial is essential when negotiations do not accomplish what my client wants.

Crowd limits in restaurants and other leisure venues started in the nation's capital and state to the north recently, in response to the coronavirus, and yesterday sadly came to Virginia. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I am saddened to see not only that the commonwealth's governor on March 17, 2020, ordered a ten-person crowd limit for restaurants, theaters, and fitness centers, but that his order references it being a Class 1 misdemeanor for a violation under Va. Code § 32.1-27 and a Class 3 misdemeanor for violating § 35.1-7, in relation to the governor's order. Will the Virginia limits stop there, or extend to additional venues, and add curfews and staying at home under penalty of prosecution? Earlier this month I was hoping that quarantines would be the worst test of our Constitution.

Fairfax criminal defense has its own rhythm, peculiarities and challenges, just as does each Virginia county courthouse. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that a significant part of successful criminal defense is knowing your judge, how to deal with prosecutors (now with an entirely new Fairfax chief prosecutor who replaced the decades-old former commonwealth's attorney regime), and knowing the courthouse's written and unwritten procedures and practices, together with full preparation, and excellence in advocacy and persuasion.

Judge pushback on criminal defense-friendly prosecutorial discretion -- including motions to enter cases nolle prosequi / dismissed, and to amend charges downward -- is taking place in at least one county (Arlington) where a self proclaimed reformist chief prosecutor has been in office since January 2, 2020. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that such pushback is law-limited in that "'prosecutorial discretion is an inherent executive power.'" In re Horan, 271 Va. 258 (2006). Moroever, "'the institution of criminal charges, as well as their order and timing, are matters of prosecutorial discretion.'” Id. The foregoing quoted Virginia Supreme Court caselaw precludes Virginia trial judges from rejecting the parties' mutual agreement to enter criminal charges as nolle prosequi or dismissed, or to amend criminal charges without objection from the criminal defendant.

Bench pushback is here in Northern Virginia, where judges will not automatically rubber stamp mutually agreed requests to dismiss criminal charges nor mutually agreed sentences and suspended imposition of sentence terms and conditions. Some judges will even ponder from the bench about whether certain prosecutorial leniency is wise. As a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer, I know that the Democratic primaries that unseated the entrenched prosecutorial regimes in Fairfax County and Arlington thus far -- in my experience and from communicating with colleagues -- have amounted to prosecutor offices that answer more to their entire constituency, rather than only alleged and actual crime victims. The Loudoun County commonwealth's attorney's office is also a more hospitable opponent to defend against than under the prior chief prosecutor. Consequently, it remains important for any criminal defendant timely to obtain a qualified lawyer.

Maintain vigilance with prosecutors and police. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know the necessity of such an approach. When Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong were photographed heartily laughing with each other at their first meeting, they were at all times maintaining their calculation, cunning, and awareness. They both knew how ruthless each other was, that Mao was willing to have slews of his countrypeople die for his dictatorial edicts, and that Nixon had no love whatsover for communists. The two got together not out of weakness, but from recognizing the geopolitical reality of countering the much larger menace to each of their nations that the the Soviet Union represented.

Abolishing the death penalty has long been critical for me. Abolition is a major human rights, social justice, and racial justice issue. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer and longtime human rights activist, I bristled when eight years ago a fellow Virginia criminal defense lawyer called me for support for his state legislative campaign (he did not prevail), but dismissed my asking him about pushing for ending the death penalty by saying little more than that abolition was not going to happen in the commonwealth. Nor was my support for his campaign going to happen after he had so curtly dismissed my promoting the end to capital punishment.

Sea changes are happening that benefit criminal defendants with the new Virginia chief prosecutors in Fairfax County, Arlington and Loudoun As a Fairfax DUI lawyer, I see numerous personnel changes at these Virginia commonwealth attorneys' offices; more flexibility with numerous case negotiations; and more opportunity to agree to disagree during case discussions and  negotiations.

Lobbying to add, stop and change legislation can be a challenging, painstaking and lengthy experience. As a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer, today I witnessed receptiveness to criminal justice reform by Virginia legislators -- at least Democrats --when I today joined around one hundred other criminal defense lawyers from around the commonwealth in this climate of better prospects than ever for advancing a civil liberties-beneficial agenda in criminal justice.

Cannabis decriminalization and legalization movement has been proceeding at a dizzying pace in numerous states over the last years, after previous decades of organization, toil and sweat by marijuana activists nationwide. As a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer, I deeply thank these activists for their accomplishments, and look forward to seeing the marijuana -- and hopefully also hash oil -- prosecution changes that will take place with the self-labeled reformers who will become chief prosecutors in the beginning of 2020 in Fairfax County and Arlington County, and possibly Loudoun County, Virginia.