FAST ACTION ON HABITUAL OFFENDER APPEAL
[Posted September 16, 2008] The normal course of affairs for an appeal in the Supreme Court is that it takes seven weeks from the week of oral argument to the week of decision. That gets lengthened a bit over the Christmas holidays, when it’s about ten weeks, and over the summer, when unfortunate litigants who argue in June have to wait three long months to get a ruling.
Several cases each session are decided by unpublished order, and those can come down on any given Friday, usually a few weeks after argument. But one case argued last week got the turbocharged treatment. Harris v. Commonwealth was a challenge to a conviction of driving after having been adjudicated a habitual offender, a felony in this case. Harris’s driving privileges had been “fully restored” by the circuit court, but that court kept in place an administrative revocation imposed by the DMV.
Two weeks after the restoration, Harris blew through a red light, and was charged with the felony. He argued that he couldn’t be convicted of the HO charge, since his rights were restored, and an administrative revocation was different from an HO adjudication. The trial court convicted him anyway, and the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court.
But in oral argument in the Supreme Court, the Attorney General essentially agreed that the conviction was incorrect, for the very reason cited by Harris. Since Harris was approaching the end of his sentence, it made no sense to make him wait until the next opinion day (October 31) for release. Accordingly, the case was argued on Thursday, September 11; the Supreme Court reversed by unpublished order on Friday, September 12; and the Clerk issued the mandate on Monday, September 15. That is fast work indeed.
Since the order is unpublished, it won’t appear on the court’s web site or in Virginia Reports. If you would like a copy, contact me by e-mail, and I’ll send it to you.