As Virginia trial judges sought the correct approach to virus-related speedy trial issues for criminal defendants, the Supreme Court of Virginia added an extra bit of guidance on May 1.
The court made it clear the court’s emergency orders toll the running of statutory speedy trial periods for criminal prosecutions from March 16 to May 17 or until a later date to be determined. The clarification turns on the distinction between the state speedy trial statute and the constitutional right to a speedy trial.
An April 14 opinion from a Roanoke County judge said Virginia trial judges had taken different approaches to whether the Supreme Court’s orders automatically tolled the statutory speedy trial clock.
In the May 1 clarification order, the high court said its March 16 order directed trial courts to continue all criminal matters, including jury trials, “subject to a defendant’s right to a speedy trial.”
“In this context, the ‘right to a speedy trial’ refers to a criminal defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial,” the court said May 1.
The court’s March 27 order authorized courts “under certain precautionary circumstances” to hear criminal cases if necessary to avoid violating a defendant’s right to a speedy trial.
“Like the similar provision in the March 16 order, the ‘right to a speedy trial’ provision in the March 27 order refers only to a criminal defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial,” the court said.