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Fairfax speedy trial denial affirmed by Virginia Court of Appeals

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Fairfax speedy trial challenge against criminal conviciton gets denied due to Virginia Supreme Court’s Covid orders

Fairfax speedy trial (ST) rights are critical both under the Virginia Code and the Constitution, just sa they are in the rest of the commonwealth. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I always keep my eyes on this right for all my clients. On May 31, 2022, the Virginia Court of Appeals denied Jovan Anthony Ali speedy trial relief for his unlawful wounding conviction, where he had the distinction of having Fairfax’s first jury trial (in November 2020) after the Covid-19 pandemic delayed jury trials for months pending formulation of physical-distancing and personal protection plans by each circuit court, that needed approval by the commonwealth’s Supreme Court. Jovan Ali v. Commonwealth of Virginia, ___Va. App. ___ (May 31, 2022).

Why is this Jovan Ali Fairfax speedy trial appellate opinion so important to Virginia criminal defendants?

This Jovan Ali Fairfax speedy trial appeallate opinion is important for referencing for all statutory and Constitutional speedy trial challenges in Virginia, not only for challenging speedy trial issues during the period that covered Jovan Ali and many other Virginia criminal defendants when jury trials had not yet resumed in the Commonwealth. Ali affirms Virginia criminal defendants’ statutory and Constitutional speedy trial rights, while also confirming that no inflexible mathematical formula applies to whether speedy trial relief will be granted.

What are my Virginia statutory and Constitutional speedy trial rights?

In Virginia, with exceptions, a felony trial generally must commence within five months after probable cause is found at a preliminary hearing (or indictment if no preliminary hearing is held) for defendants detained pretrial, and nine months for those not detained. Va. Code § 19.2-243. That is a stronger protection than the federal appellate speedy trial right which generally does not even start the speedy trial analysis until six months has passed, and then compels a four-part balancing test. U.S. Const. Amend. VI; Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972). One of the exceptions to this right is for a natural disaster, which Covid-19 was, at least in its earlier stages. Furthermore: “A related statute, Code § 17.1-330, provides Virginia’s Chief Justice with the power to declare a ‘judicial emergency’ in the event of ‘a disaster, as defined in Code § 44-146.16,’ when that disaster ‘substantially endangers or impedes’ certain specified ‘operation[s] of a court.’ Code § 17.1-330(A).” Ali (Fairfax speedy trial case).

What are my Constitutional Speedy Trial rights?

The Ali Fairfax speedy trial case also covers the Sixth Amendment Constitutional ST right. The balancing factors considered by courts in determining whether theSixth Amendment Constitutional speedy trial right has been violated include the following: “Length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant.” Barker, 407 U.S. 514. In Barker, the criminal defendant was denied speedy trial relief even though it took several years to commence his trial. Unfortunately for him, Barker’s lawyer did no assert his speedy trial right before trial.

Talk to your Virginia criminal lawyer about the best way to preserve your speedy trial rights

Your Virginia criminal lawyer can talk with you about preserving your ST rights, including how to distinguish the Ali Fairfax speedy trial case as now distanced from the fact that the Virginai Circuit Courts have for a long time been proceeding with jury trial. Your criminal defense lawyer can also address pursuing relief when those rights are violated. I always keep my clients’ statutory and Constitutional speedy trial rights at the forefront of my mind while defending them.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz pursues your best defense against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 for your free in-person initial consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending case.