Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

You don't have to 'fight the good fight' alone. Join VACDL today.



Only VACDL Members in good standing (i.e. current year dues have been paid) may vote in the upcoming Board of Directors elections, so please remit payment today!

If you joined VACDL in late 2019 or early 2020, or you are a Virginia Public Defender, you did NOT receive an invoice as your dues are paid through March 2021.

If you've never been a VACDL member, this is a great time to join the only voluntary Virginia bar organization exclusively focused on criminal defense!

Contact VACDL's Exec. Director at about a special "Goodbuy"2020 discount on your new membership!


We have two great CLEs coming up!

Thursday, November 12th----

VACDL's Virtual Fall CLE and Annual Meeting


Friday, December 4th---

NACDL/VACDL's Webcast of Larry Pozner on Cross


VIDC Initial Certification Training 

Registration is through the VIDC, and there is no cost. 

November 2-3, 2020

VIDC Initial Certification

The VIDC website ( provides an overview of the court-appointed counsel certification process. We encourage all VACDL members to become certified to take court-appointed cases, and we offer a mentorship program to assist with the trial requirements for felony case certification. 

1604 Santa Rosa Road, Suite 200

Richmond, VA 23229

Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition:

VA COVID-19 Justice Coalition


 We support the efforts to reform discovery rules in Virginia to ensure just and fair trials for all accused of criminal offenses. If you'd also like to support this initiative, click on the link below:

Virginia Fair Trial Coalition Support Agreement.pdf


-Postings will be shared as they become available-


 LexisNexis has partnered with VACDL on the production of Virginia Criminal Laws Annotated, an "essential reference for criminal law practitioners with comprehensive coverage of Virginia criminal laws and procedure." VACDL had input into the content and design, and will continue to be involved in production in coming years.

 It is available for purchase as a large softbound volume or as an ebook, for the great price of $79.

 As an extra benefit of your membership, VACDL members in good standing receive an additional 25% discount on the regular price!*


To save 25% on Virginia Criminal Laws Annotated, please reference or enter promotion code: VACDL2020

Visit the LexisNexis® Store at

or call 800.533.1637 to speak with a LexisNexis® account representative.

*Offer expires December 31, 2020. Offer applies to new orders only. Price current as of December 2019. Prices are before shipping and taxes are calculated, shipped to a U.S. address only. Prices are subject to change without notice. LexisNexis® eBook, CD, DVD and downloadable product sales are final and not returnable. Current subscriptions, future renewals or updates and certain products are excluded from this offer. Sales to federal government customers may be subject to specific contract pricing. Discounts may be available to customers who subscribe to both online and print publications, subject to your employer’s policy. Other restrictions may apply. Void where prohibited. See



  The Board of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (VACDL) expresses sorrow and anger over the experiences of the innumerable victims of excessive force, over-policing, and the militarization of law enforcement that have increasingly been brought to light, most recently with the deaths of George Floyd and others.  Recent events have acted as a catalyst for reform.  Many factors that have been swept under the rug for decades contribute to the injustices that we are seeing.  We are an organization dedicated to the presumption of innocence and due process for all.  It is painfully obvious that there are too many unnecessary deaths in police-citizen encounters which are a result of systemic problems, including racism, that have been neglected for far too long.  We are now at a crossroads where there is widespread recognition of these problems and that they can no longer be ignored.

   As we move forward to create new ways to police our society, we must also recognize that the issues are not simple and the solutions are going to require the input of all stakeholders in our community, including citizens, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, legislators, and judges.

  The criminal justice system is where the effects of racism are often most visible.  Disproportionate arrests of people of color and overly punitive application of laws have a disparate impact on minority communities.  VACDL calls for changes that are long overdue.  This is a time for reform. 

  VACDL is committed to fighting against racism and injustice through legislative advocacy, by holding our elected officials to account, and pushing for real, significant reform in policing. VACDL will continue to fight for a fair and just system. These changes will not come easily, but we will continue to ensure that our organization, and the voice of our membership, and our clients, will be involved in these important discussions.

  Our goal is, and has always been, to ensure equal justice for everyone regardless of who they are, where they come from or the color of their skin. VACDL’s stated mission is ‘to improve the quality of justice in Virginia by seeking to ensure fairness and equality before the law,’ and that applies to all.  We stand together with those who fight injustice and join in the growing momentum to create genuine and lasting change now, and remedy the systemic problems plaguing our criminal justice system and society.



in Richmond

[DATE TO BE DETERMINED! We will await the lifting of social distancing restrictions before rescheduling this event]

VACDL is co-sponsoring a happy hour with the Richmond Criminal Bar, so stop by and enjoy a little social time with your criminal law colleagues!

Upcoming events

Quote of the Quarter: 

      "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."

-Benjamin Franklin            


VACDL's VIRTUAL Fall CLE and Annual Meeting is set for Thursday, November 12th! Please visit:Zooming Your Practice Forward CLE 

to register now!


 Registration is now open for a special 6 hour NACDL and VACDL Larry Pozner Webinar Event on December 4th! Please visit:

Pozner On Cross- VACDL and NACDL

to register for this self-study program with a master of cross-examination!

AND (there's more!)

Mark your calendars to attend VACDL's Spring 2021 Seminar, now set for May 14th at the Van Metre Hall at George Mason University!


    If you are a full-time Virginia Public Defender, make sure to take advantage of your VIDC group rate VACDL membership! Joining VACDL is super easy online [just click the "JOIN TODAY" button on this page!], and once your application has been approved by the VACDL Executive Director (she will confirm your employment with the VIDC), you can be added to the VACDL List Serv. We value your point of view and experience, so join today!

PRESS RELEASE FROM NACDL, VACDL, the ACLU of Virginia, Justice Forward Virginia and the Legal Aid Justice Center, August 6, 2020

Coalition Launches Virginia Redemption Initiative, Expanding NACDL’s Return to Freedom Project

Washington, DC (August 6, 2020) The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (VACDL), the ACLU of Virginia, Justice Forward Virginia, and the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), today announced the launch of the Virginia Redemption Project.

The Project will recruit, train, and support volunteer lawyers to assist incarcerated individuals to submit petitions to the governor for executive clemency (which in Virginia is called a conditional pardon), and for other available post-sentencing relief. A conditional pardon is an act by the governor to modify a sentence. Individuals granted a conditional pardon are given terms and conditions for early release which, if violated, can result in re-incarceration. At its core, the Virginia Redemption Project is focused on ensuring that those who are most at risk of illness from COVID-19 and who cannot afford a lawyer have access to meaningful review of their case.

On April 22, 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed a budget amendment authorizing the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) to grant early release to some incarcerated individuals who had less than one year remaining on their sentence. While this has brought relief to some individuals, many more individuals who can be safely released remain incarcerated. In May 2020, a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Virginia and Charlottesville attorney Elliott Harding relating to the continued confinement of individuals at high risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a settlement agreement, which not only addressed health care and hygiene needs of those being held, but promised expanded and expedited review of petitions for conditional pardons. While the remedial measures in the settlement provide hope for post-sentencing relief for thousands of vulnerable people at high risk, neither the settlement nor the legislature has provided any funding, resources, or other mechanisms to provide representation to those seeking release. This coalition was formed to address this need. 

“Through NACDL’s extensive experience in supporting clemency and compassionate release projects, including Clemency Project 2014 during the Obama Administration, the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project, the Compassionate Release Clearinghouse, as well as other initiatives that are a part of NACDL’s Return to Freedom Project, NACDL is uniquely positioned to help with these immediate release efforts,” explained NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer. “Working with our partners, NACDL aims to make the promise of redemption a reality for as many qualified candidates in Virginia’s prisons as possible.”

“The Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is proud to join in the Virginia Redemption Project to assist incarcerated persons who are vulnerable to COVID-19 in seeking early release,” said Shawn Stout, Esq., VACDL Board Member and VACDL Emergency Response Committee Member. “The Commonwealth has not done nearly enough to protect incarcerated persons and the communities around them from the spread of COVID-19, and the virus has continued to sweep through Virginia’s prisons, jails, and detention centers. The Virginia Redemption Project will help move the Commonwealth in the right direction by ensuring meaningful review for many more people who should be released.”

“People who are incarcerated are facing a major crisis. The virus is rapidly spreading in Virginia’s prison facilities, and incarcerated people are unable to take measures to safely socially distance or protect themselves like those in the general public. Without intervention by the administration, people with serious medical issues unnecessarily locked up in prisons are most at risk of illness or even death,” said ACLU-VA Legal Director Eden Heilman. “The Virginia Redemption Project will fill the need for people who are incarcerated with serious medical issues and who need help and representation to seek their safe release.”

“Virginia’s jails and prisons are currently dealing with the effects of COVID-19 and mass incarceration, which has proven to be a deadly combination,” says Bryan Kennedy, Policy Director for Justice Forward Virginia. “This project will prove to our elected officials that many people who are currently incarcerated can be released, which will improve public health at no risk to public safety.”

“Virginia is an outlier among the fifty states in its lack of meaningful release options for sick and elderly prisoners—those people who are especially at risk of serious illness and death due to COVID-19,” said Shannon Ellis, an Attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center. “We hear every day from incarcerated individuals and their loved ones who are living on the front lines of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on prisons and jails.  With this project, we hope to expand access to release for those who need it most desperately.”

If you are an attorney licensed to practice in Virginia and you would like to volunteer to take on one or more petitions through the Project, please click here.

If you are seeking the assistance of the Project, please click here.

This is a Project of NACDL, VACDL, the ACLU of Virginia, Justice Forward Virginia, and the Legal Aid Justice Center.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

The Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (VACDL) is a statewide organization of over 600 attorneys whose practice is primarily focused on the representation of those accused of criminal violations. Founded in 1992 as the Virginia College of Criminal Defense Attorneys, VACDL changed its name in 2002 to reflect its affiliation and strong ties to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. VACDL's mission is to improve the quality of justice in Virginia by seeking to ensure fairness and equality before the law.

The ACLU of Virginia promotes civil liberties and civil rights for everyone in the Commonwealth through public education, litigation and advocacy with the goal of securing freedom and equality for all. For more information on the ACLU of Virginia, go to

Justice Forward Virginia is a non-partisan advocacy organization that fights for criminal legal system reform in Virginia. JFV works with legislators and other advocates to improve the laws of the Commonwealth to make our criminal legal system one that actually does justice for all who are brought into it.

The Legal Aid Justice Center partners with communities and clients to achieve justice by dismantling systems that create and perpetuate poverty. Justice means racial justice, social justice, and economic justice. Learn more at

PRESS RELEASE FROM NACDL, VACDL and Advocacy Partners, July 23, 2020:

Leading Advocacy Groups Call for Bold and Dramatic Criminal Justice Reform During Special Legislative Session in Virginia

Washington, DC (July 23, 2020) – Beginning August 18, 2020, the Virginia General Assembly will convene a special legislative session during which it is expected to address numerous proposals for meaningful criminal justice reform in the Commonwealth. This special session holds the potential to enact significant, and indeed sweeping, policing and criminal justice reforms, including some that died during the regular legislative session or were carried over for study. It is the view of the signatory organizations to this statement that this critical juncture in the nation’s history offers an important and unique opportunity to bring about the kinds of changes that will make policing and criminal justice in Virginia more fair, rational, and humane.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are some 69,000 people behind bars in Virginia. That translates into an incarceration rate of approximately 779 per 100,000 people in the Commonwealth (this figure includes those in prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities). That is a rate even higher than the United States as a whole, which is the leading nation in terms of incarceration. When those people in Virginia who are under some form of criminal justice supervision are added, that figure jumps to 131,000. The racial disparities evident in all of this data are profound.

Reforms that are imperative during this special session include, but are not limited to, legislation that addresses and accomplishes the following:

  •          Confront and eradicate the well-known and undeniable racial and ethnic disparities at every stage of the criminal process, from policing all the way through to re-entry and the collateral consequences of arrest and conviction;
  •      Hold police accountable by increasing transparency and strengthening oversight and regulation;
  •      Prevent pretextual detentions and the excessive use of force by law enforcement;
  •       Address other long-awaited and much-needed reforms to Virginia’s criminal justice system, including in the areas of overcharging, expungement, as well as bail reform, fines and fees reform, and the resuscitation of parole;
  •  Eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing laws; and
  • ·    Enact common sense procedural reforms including increased sentencing options and mental health treatment.

“Now is the time for the Commonwealth of Virginia, my home state, to bring about the change necessary to be a leader in policing practices and criminal justice reform,” said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Nina J. Ginsberg. “Virginia’s elected legislative leaders must hear and act upon the desperate and unambiguous cries of their constituents for change. Indeed, rather than lagging behind other states, Virginia should be setting the example. Anything less would likely be the missed opportunity of a generation.” 

“Virginia must not squander the opportunity to overcome historical inequities and lead the nation towards common sense criminal justice reform,” said Rich Johnson of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (VACDL) Legislative Committee. “The times are ripe for real change in the way law enforcement in Virginia interacts with its citizens, and we hope the upcoming special session of the General Assembly will usher in the beginning of that change.”

“The COVID-19 crisis and recent calls for criminal justice reform create an inflection point for Virginia to lead the rest of the country by ensuring an effective justice system characterized by restoration and equality for all,” said Jeremiah Mosteller, Policy Counsel at the Due Process Institute. “As a Virginian, I have been encouraged by the steps our General Assembly has already taken in recent sessions to improve our justice system and urge our elected leaders to utilize this unique opportunity to fix the remaining problems. These solutions should seek to reduce overcriminalization, improve accountability in policing, and ensure everyone’s constitutional rights are protected in the Commonwealth’s justice system.”

“Virginia has an opportunity to begin breaking the vicious cycle of trauma and violence that drives mass incarceration and devastates Black and Brown communities,” said Equal Justice USA Executive Director Shari Silberstein. “With this agenda for reform, lawmakers can start reducing the great harm of prisons and policing and create the space to join the entire nation in reimagining justice and accountability.”

“To end mass criminalization, we ultimately must end reliance on fines and fees to raise revenue,” said Priya Sarathy Jones, national policy and campaigns director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center. “When policymakers use police to raise revenue, they systematically extract wealth from communities of color — who not only are disproportionately stopped, cited and arrested, but more likely to face potentially violent encounters with police.”

“Police transparency and accountability is critical for preventing wrongful convictions and healing victims of injustice,” said Innocence Project State Campaigns Director Michelle Feldman. “Virginia took major steps on criminal justice last session, and this is an opportunity to make real changes to policing.”

“The current climate presents a perfect opportunity for Virginia lawmakers to address the root causes of policing issues,” said Chief John Dixon (Ret.), Petersburg, Virginia, Police Department, on behalf of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. “I urge our legislators to demonstrate their commitment to ending racial disparities in the justice system, improving police accountability, and ending excessive sentencing guidelines.”

“Pragmatic policing reforms are important to ensure public safety and to promote positive community engagement,” said Jessica Kelley, Manager, Government Affairs, and Manager, Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties, at the R Street Institute. “We hope to discuss reforms dealing with how we hold officers accountable as well as how officers are being recruited and trained. Further, we believe that equipping officers with more appropriate tactical tools and decreasing the militarization of local departments is critical to reform.”

The signatory organizations strongly urge the Virginia General Assembly to make serious and lasting improvements to the Commonwealth’s policing practices and its criminal law. The people of Virginia deserve no less. These groups are prepared to assist the General Assembly as it takes up this critically important work.   

Signatory Organizations

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)

Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (VACDL)

Due Process Institute

Equal Justice USA

Fines & Fees Justice Center

Human Rights for Kids

Innocence Project

Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)

R Street Institute

Not a VACDL member?

VACDL List Serv

*Exciting news! We have created a brand new, more user-friendly, list serv hosted by! If you are a VACDL member in good standing, you should have already received a link in December granting you access to register your email address with the new List Serv. New (or formerly lapsed) VACDL members will receive the access link upon approval of their membership applications. Please contact Executive Director Danielle Payne at with any questions!*

VACDL Newsletter

 Each quarter, VACDL sends a newsletter, The Virginia Champion, to active members. Recent past editions are available in the Member's Only Section. 

*Members can now choose electronic or mailed delivery for The Virginia Champion. In your Member Profile, click "Edit Profile" and select your preferred delivery option!*

VACDL honors our new 
          Life Members

Hugh E. "Teddy" Black, III

David M. Lee

Matt C. Pinsker

Sandra Saseen-Smith


VACDL endorses the following sponsors and partners:


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Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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