Post-Conviction Remedies in Virginia


The 21-day rule in Virginia strictly limits a trial court’s ability to address errors in a conviction.1 The Supreme Court of Virginia has stated that “[t]here are strong policy reasons favoring certainty of results in judicial proceedings. Accordingly, we attach a high degree of finality to judgments, whether obtained by default or otherwise. Rule 1:1 implements that policy, and we apply it rigorously, unless a statute creates a clear exception to its operation.”2 In most cases, 21 days after the sentencing order was entered the conviction becomes final.

Therefore, any challenges to the conviction or sentence made after 21 days must be addressed through exceptions to the policy of finality contained in Rule 1:1 such as habeas corpus.3 A court may interrupt the 21-day period only by the entry of an order “modifying, vacating, or suspending the final judgment order.”4

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