Fast District Court plea hearings – Fairfax criminal lawyer weighs in
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Fast District Court plea hearings are common in Virginia, says Fairfax criminal lawyer
Fast guilty and no contest plea hearings in the Virginia General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court are common in the Northern Virginia counties where appear. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that this approach with agreed pleas and sentencings between the defense and commonwealth / prosecutor helps move along the docket so that the court has more time available for the cases that are to be tried. While I am always ready for a trial if my client rejects the status of plea negotiations, a criminal defense lawyer is obligated to explore settlement on behalf of his or her client (even if the pursued settlement is a case dismissal) on the principal of reducing the harm of the case to the defendant as much as possible. Going to trial needs to be the dafault.
Fairfax criminal lawyer on Boykin v. Alabama in the Virginia District Court
At the same time, under the United States Supreme Court’s Boykin v. Alabama decision, a fast or lengthier guilty or no contest plea is not sufficient if not entered knowingly and voluntarily. Knowing that some judges will only do a brief inquiry about the knowing and voluntary status of my client’s guilty or no contest plea, I make sure beforehand that my client is doing so.
Fairfax criminal lawyer on how other courts will treat the lack of a jury trial waiver inquiry at a fast Virginia District Court plea hearing
With no jury trial being available at the Virginia District Court level, and available when a criminal defendant appeals for a de novo trial in Circuit Court, I have not heard Virginia District Court judges address the Circuit Court jury trial right during plea colloquys. A Fourth Circuit appellate panel recently ruled 2-1 that the lack of a jury trial waiver inquiry in Virginia District Court will not save the district court conviction from being used as a predicate conviction in federal court. However, the dissenting judge differs. U.S. v. Locke, ___ F.3d ___ (4th Cir., July 30, 2019). This dissent may well lead some Virginia District Court judges to address the jury trial right with pleading defendants, making it a less fast plea proceedings.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor and DUI prosecutions. For a free in-person confidential consultation with Jon Katz about your pending criminal court case, please call his staff at 703-383-1100.