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Logistics for your Fairfax criminal court date- Virginia lawyer comments

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Logistics for your Fairfax criminal court date

Logistics for your Fairfax criminal court date are important to cover well in advance of your scheduled day in court. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I recognize the benefits for non-lawyers to be familiar with the courthouse process, procedures and buidling layout, and to ask their lawyers for such an orientation. Today’s blog entry focuses on the procedures in the Fairfax County courthouse, and are applicable in many was to all Virginia courthouses.

Should I visit the Fairfax courthouse before my court date to know the courthouse logistics?

The last thing you need on your first court date is to have that be your first time learning courthouse logistics looking for the courthouse building and entrance, understanding traffic patterns and congestion common to before your own court time, and parking, let alone dealing with courthouse security, finding your courtroom, and finding your lawyer. Unless you live far from the Fairfax courthouse, visit the court building and a courtroom similar to where your case will be, before your trial date, ideally between 10:00 a.m to 11:00 a.m.  to see the court at its busiest, whether with or without your lawyer

The Fairfax courthouse is at 4110 Chain Bridge Road / Route 123. For parking logistics, paid parking can be found at the multi-level parking facility on Page Avenue to the west of Route 123, around three blocks from the courthouse’s front entrance. Free all-day parking can often be found by the city hall (which has its own courtroom for Fairfax City misdemeanor and infraction cases, which means not to mix up the two courthouses), on Armstrong Street and some of its surrounding roads to the east of Chain Bridge Road. My own clients receive a temporary parking pass to keep their car at my building’s parking lot on Judicial Drive, across the street from the court’s rear entrance, which feeds into the front entrance used by the public.

What are the logistics for entering the Fairfax courthouse and finding my courtroom?

The Fairfax courthouse is often an exercise in logistics about hurry up and wait, still making it essential to arrive before the start of your court time. Non-lawyers may only enter the Fairfax courthouse at its front entrance, parallel to Page Avenue to its north, where you will be asked several Covid-19-related questions. Next you will be instructed to walk towards a machine that will check your temperature by laser beam. If you have not already found your courtroom number by your lawyer’s notice or online, you can check the monitors near the courtrooms in your part of the courthouse (with online courtroom information depending on whether your case is in General District Court (whose online docket is here), Circuit Court (which usually posts courtroom numbers here the night before or early in the morning of your court date), or Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, which does not post courtroom numbers online.) Your lawyer can tell you whether to meet him or her in the hallway outside the courtroom or inside the courtroom.

How should I dress for Fairfax court? Are cellphones permitted inside the courthouse?

I ask my own clients and case witnesses to dress respectfully for court and to dress down, avoiding blue jeans, athletic shoes and t-shirts. For clothing logistics, I favor them wearing muted colors and nothing flashy. I do not mean for any of this to clash with their own culture, religion or important beliefs, and we can talk before court in the event there is any tension between the two. The point is for them and their words to be noticed, rather than distracting anyone with their fashion or clothing.  Non-lawyers are permitted to bring cellphones into the Fairfax courthouse (but not in many other Virginia courthouses), as well as laptop computers, smartpads and smartwatches. Inside the courtrooms, all of those items (other than smart watches) should be pocketed or otherwise stored away, making no sound, not even vibrating.

What are the court’s Covid-19 logistics?

During the coronavirus pandemic, some Virginia courthouse logistics currently limit entry into the courthouses to parties, witnesses, lawyers and others essential to the case. Some courthouses delay when a criminal or DUI defendant may enter the courthouse until close to their case start time in order to limit the concentration of people in the courthouse. At least before the Fairfax courthouse population increases after resuming hearing traffic infractions in Spring 2021, friends and family members of defendants are generally permitted inside the court building. However, with the benches in the courtrooms requiring six-foot distancing, room in the courtrooms (rather than in the hallways) may not be available for friends and family members until the courtrooms start emptying as the judge proceeds further into the case docket for the particular morning or day.

Where are the Fairfax courthouse’s confidential meeting rooms?

The availability of confidential meeting rooms in the Fairfax courthouse runs from a high concentration of such rooms on the third floor adjacent to the many courtrooms of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (which is currently primarily conducting non-criminal trial proceedings remotely), to a few courtrooms on the first and second floor wings near where criminal misdemeanor and DUI cases are heard, to no good confidential meeting areas on the fourth and fifth floors, where the Circuit Courtrooms are found, other than in the small meeting rooms found between the double doors for entering those courtrooms. Such logistics are important to know in advance of one’s court date.

Do Fairfax jail inmates appear in person in the courtroom?

During the pandemic, judges typically have Fairfax jail inmates appear in court by closed circuit television monitor rather than in person. My preference always is to have my clients right next to me in court, where we can collaborate best in confidential fashion (for instance by notes, whispering, and in private rooms during recesses), and for them to be scene in three dimensions — rather then in the two dimensions and lesser sound dynamics of a television monitor — when the judge is making a decision affecting their case and liberty. Along those health logistics, the Virginia jails no longer allow lawyer-client contact visits, and decide the extent to which lawyers may even enter the jails to visit their clients with a plexiglass dividers, versus only remotely for instance with smartpad devices in the hands of inmates.

Must a criminal defendant agree to having prosecution witnesses testify with masks and remotely?

Even for criminal cases in the Fairfax courthouse, witnesses may request permission to appear remotely, which is not to say that the request will automatically be granted. I am ready to object to that as a violation of my client’s Sixth Amendment confrontation clause rights and due process rights under the Constitution’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and as making the trial witness sequestration order / rule on witnesses harder to monitor and enforce. I am also ready to object to the logistics of letting witnesses in criminal trials testify with facemasks on, because that obscures their full face from being seen in order to fully evaluate their veracity, reliability and recall ability, and makes it harder to hear them speak. In fact, if a prosecutor or criminal defense lawyer is masked while questioning the witness, they also are harder to understand, both because masks muffle sound and prevent us from seeing the speaker’s lips and mouth move in being able to understand what is being said.

How important is it for me to communicate in depth with my lawyer before my criminal court date?

With all these logistics and time limitations on one’s court date in Fairfax and any other Virginia court, it is very important to cover as much communicating as possible with your lawyer before your court date. Your court date is show time, not a dress rehearsal. Inevitably, there will be more items to discuss with your lawyer on your court date as well, when at least most of the essential discussion items will have been able to have been covered before the court date.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz defends you to the hilt against Virginia misdemeanor, felony and DUI prosecutions. Learn what Jon Katz can do for you and your defense by scheduling a free in-person consultation with him about your court-pending case, at 703-383-1100