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Fairfax mask guidelines are eased says Virginia criminal lawyer

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Fairfax mask guidelines- Photo of mask

Fairfax mask guidelines are now the domain of individual judges for their courtrooms, says Virginia criminal defense lawyer

Fairfax mask guidelines for a long time — with a brief interruption — have required wearing them throughout the courthouse, except where eased by the judge in his or her own courtroom. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I recall the delays for scheduling Virginia criminal jury trials when individual courts prepared and submitted courtroom reconfiguration plans to the commonwealth’s Supreme Court for approval, to increase distancing and to place plexiglass in witness booths. Today, the Fairfax County courthouse has gone the direction of some farther away courthouses, making masks optional to enter the courthouse, and letting individual judges decide the extent to which to require them.

What does the mask guideline change mean for my Fairfax County, Virginia, criminal defense?

With this Fairfax mask guideline change, check with your Virginia criminal or DUI defense lawyer whether your judge will require wearing a mask inside his or her courtroom. If you have no lawyer, check for any signs outside your courtroom that address such activity. Already, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge David Bernhard (a former Fairfax criminal defense lawyer) posted on social media: “In my courtroom, the gallery will remain masked for now though this may be relaxed depending on how crowded the courtroom may be. Masking will be optional for participants at counsel tables, testifying witnesses, and staff, and I will preside unmasked.”

Unmasking prosecution witnesses is a good thing

My long-held view is that — unless since religious convictions or medical necessity direct otherwise — all witnesses against my Virginia criminal defense clients should testify unmasked. A judge and jury cannot otherwise sufficiently assess a police officer’s or other prosecution witnesses’  credibility. This new default in the Fairfax mask guidelines that such paraphernalia not to be required in the Fairfax courthouse unless an individual judge directs otherwise for his or her own courtroom will support every request I make to a Fairfax judge to only allow a prosecution witness to testify if unmasked.

What do I do if I feel uncomfortable in the Fairfax courthouse with all these unmasked people near me?

If any of my criminal defense clients feel uncomfortable with uncrowded Fairfax and other Virginia courthouse hallways and courtrooms, they should tell me and I will arrange for their discomfort to be alleviated. With or without Fairfax mask guidelines, I usually tell my clients not to go into the courtroom without me, which reduces their being in an overcrowded courtroom, and enables them to spread themselves out from large crowds of people gathering in the courthouse hallways.

Do the Fairfax mask guidelines change support not letting the pandemic factor too strongly against Virginai criminal defendants in speedy trial considerations?

The Virginia Supreme Court has issued repeated orders over time extending critical criminal case deadlines. Now that even the this courthouse — a close distance to the nation’s capital — has changed its Fairfax mask guidelines, it no longer seems to make sense for the pandemic to provide blanket justification to harm criminal defendant’s speedy trial rights.

Fairfax criminal defense lawyer Jonathan Katz has decades of experience successfully defending against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. You will be in great hands when you hire Jon Katz as your lawyer. Call 703-383-1100 for a free in-person consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending case.