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Virginia Court Denies Defendant’s Appeal Despite Argument Regarding Constitutional Right to Speedy Trial

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2022 | Assault and Battery, Court Procedure

In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal of his unlawful wounding conviction was denied. On appeal, the defendant argued that the court left too much time between the date he was arrested and the date of his trial. Because defendants in the United States and in Virginia have the constitutional right to a speedy trial, the defendant argued that his rights were violated and his conviction should be overturned. After examining the facts, the court disagreed with the defendant and denied the appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was criminally charged after he wounded an acquaintance in July 2019. He was arrested a couple of months later, and he was subsequently denied bail. His jury trial was scheduled for March 16, 2020, but the court’s emergency orders resulting from COVID-19 delayed any court proceedings that were supposed to take place starting mid-March. The defendant’s trial was pushed back, and he remained in custody while he awaited a new date.

Due to the pandemic, scheduling delays, and requests for continuances from the defendant’s counsel, the defendant’s trial ended up taking place in November 2020. After trial, the defendant was sentenced to five years in prison. He promptly appealed his conviction.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that he should have originally been granted a motion to dismiss. Under the United States Constitution as well as the Virginia Constitution, defendants are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial – this means that an unreasonable amount of time should not pass between when a defendant is charged and when he goes to trial. In this case, the defendant was arrested in October 2019 and remained in custody until trial in November 2020. The delay was 399 days, and the defendant argued that this extended amount of time infringed on his constitutional rights.

The court agreed that the defendant was subject to an abnormally long amount of time in custody. It disagreed, however, that the amount of time should warrant a dismissal of the defendant’s case. According to the court, the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for in-person trials to take place for many months. What’s more, the defendant’s attorney requested continuances at various points in the process, delaying the trial even more. Thus, said the court, there was nothing that the lower court could have done about the delay, and the 399 days were justifiable as a result.

Given this conclusion, the court decided to affirm the defendant’s original convictions.

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