Mar 25, 2020 County jail pandemic-related updates from Fairfax criminal defense lawyer
County jail changes include no deferred jail commencement, says Fairfax criminal defense lawyer
County jail changes are happening in Fairfax in response to and during the pandemic. As a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer, I know that during Covid-19 the county jail rejects delayed jail service commencement, rejects having inmates serve multiday sentence on successive weekends (with weekends being uncommon here even before the pandemic), only allows non-contact visits between lawyers and inmates, bars family visitation (but allows outgoing phone calls), and suspends volunteer visits to the detention center, and will not hold inmates for ICE / immigration detainers. I also understand that the Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office (among other prosecutor offices) is presenting a human face in being realistic keeping inmate numbers low enough at the jail to help the health of all inmates and general population members, in the process helping criminal defendants.
Overcoming unavailability of deferred jail commencement in Fairfax County
In the Fairfax County and other Virginia district courts — handling misdemeanors and felony preliminary hearings — an incentive for criminal defendants not to appeal their criminal convictions for a new trial in Circuit Court, is when judges grant defense requests to defer the start of jail by a week or more. The Fairfax sheriff’s office announced on March 24, 2020: “Effective immediately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sheriff’s Office will be suspending both the weekender program (weekends in jail) and delayed confinement (report back) sentences as the nature of these sentencing options in particular create potential issues for our staff and facilities at this time. Notification will be made when those alternative sentencing options are reinstated.” Ethical workarounds on this policy against deferred jail start dates can include asking the judge to schedule sentencing for a later date, and seeking a later trial date when a good faith basis exists to do so, On the other hand, the pandemic has delayed Fairfax trial dates currently commencing through April 17, and possibly later trial dates will be deferred, meaning this no deferred jail time policy will take awhile to go into effect.
Criminal defense lawyers are only allowed no-contact visits with Fairfax jail inmates
Consistent with other area jails, the Fairfax County adult detention center is suspending contact visits between lawyers and their inmate clients. Contact visits are superior to non-contact visits. Contact visits enable barriers between an attorney and his or her criminal defense client to disintegrate, whereas non-contact visits place a plexiglass divider between the two, while the division feels much farther apart than a half inch of plexiglass.
The Fairfax prosecutor’s office is among those supporting reducing the jail population
Society is better served by reducing jail populations, rather than risking huge numbers of Covid-19-positive inmates who will then soon infect the public, because jail stays typically run from a few hours to a few months, unless the inmate has been convicted of a felony and gets transferred to Virginia’s prison system. Thanks to the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and every other local and national prosecutor’s office for each inmate they support for early release, and for each arrestee they support for staying out of jail pending trial and at sentencing.
Fairfax criminal defense lawyer Jonathan L. Katz purues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor, and DUI prosecutions. Please call 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation wtih Jon Katz.