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Fairfax judicial views on progressive prosecutorial approaches

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Fairfax judicial response does not always approve deals reached between Virginia criminal defendants and prosecutors

Fairfax judicial responses — and a judge’s response in any Virginia county for that matter — sometimes will not approve a negotiated settlement / plea deal reached between a Virginia criminal lawyer and an assistant commonwealth’s attorney. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that Fairfax and neighboring Northern Virginia courthouses are all the more relevant to this foregoing issue after four self-styled progressive commonwealth’s attorneys took control of their office in early 2020. I also know that their taking over their prosecutorial offices does not control how the independent Fairfax City, Vienna and Herndon prosecutors approach the handling of misdemeanor cases that they handle.

Will Fairfax judicial response today be any less successful for a Virginia criminal defendant’s favorable plea deal than in with the past chief prosecutor?

Fairfax judicial response to a Virginia criminal defendant’s plea deal is required to be based on the judge’s oath, and not on any viewpoint that the judge has about the overall political nor policy direction of the county commonwealth’s attorney. No matter whether the chief prosecutor is a self-styled progressive or enunciates more of a law and order line, some judges lean more towards approving most sentencing agreements so long as they are satisfied about how that fits in with the victim’s (if any) input; others at least want to hear justification for the deal; and others will sometimes or often simply not agree to bind themselves to the sentencing limits stated in a plea agreement. Because judges are not bound to a recommended sentence that is agreed to by a Virginia criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor, it is important that the deal be presented to the judge as a binding recommended sentence or sentencing cap, meaning that if the judge will not so bind himself or herself, the defendant may withdraw from the plea agreement. When the Virginia criminal defendant withdraws his or her guilty, no contest or Alford plea under such circumstances, the case gets set before a new judge, whereby the parties are free (but not required) to present the same deal or a different deal to the new judge.

What do I do when Fairfax judicial response is less favorable than the prosecutor agreement for my restricted license application in a Virginia DUI or wet reckless driving case?

Fairfax criminal and DUI defendants should delay rejoicing over a very favorable-seeming plea deal, until the knowing if Fairfax judicial response approves the deal. One area in which I see many judges get involved with sentencing is with restricted driving for Virginia DUI and wet reckless driving plea deals. For instance, it is common for wet reckless driving deals (amended from DUI charges) for Virginia prosecutors with whom I deal to leave the choice to the defendant about whether s/he wants the ignition interlock to be the only limit on his or her restricted driving, or if s/he prefers more limited restricted driving without the ignition interlock. However, some judges will decline any non-interlock wet reckless driving, or will decline letting the interlock being the only limit on restricted driving. (Note: When a Virginia judge grants restricted driving privileges to a person convicted for the first time for DUI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) under 0.15, the defendant then has the sole choice whether to have the ignition interlock as the sole restriction during the one-year driving suspension period. Talk with your lawyer about your options in the event the judge does not approve of your plea deal.

Why should I hire a Fairfax criminal lawyer who can persuade the judge to accept the plea deal that s/he obtains for me?

The default for a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer and for any Virginia criminal lawyer is to prepare for trial unless and until the case settles. You need a lawyer who takes that approach, so that you do not feel forced to plead guilty lest your lawyer is not ready to proceed to trial, and so that your lawyer presents a strong defense if settlement negotiations or Fairfax judicial response on negotiations is not successful. One way in which I work to persuade a judge to accept a negotiated agreed sentence or sentencing cap is to point out the strengths of the defense case and weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case, and to underline the judicial, police and prosecutorial resources that are saved by proceeding with a plea deal rather than a trial.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz has successfully defended thousands of people charged with DUI, felony and misdemeanor cases. Get ready to become much more knowledgable and confident about your defenses, through your first meeting alone with Jon Katz. Call 703-383-1100 to schedule your initial free in-person confidential consultation with Jon about your court-pending case.