On October 16th, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion in the case of Commonwealth v. Jefferson, in which it held that mandatory minimum sentences for child pornography cases can be run concurrently – that is, the court can allow the defendant to serve multiple sentences at the same time. The Court of Appeals in Jefferson distinguished a similar case holding that mandatory minimum firearm charges cannot be served concurrently, but must instead be served one after the other. On this blog, we commented that “[t]his case creates some tension in the law and it would seem that this case is a good candidate for review by the Virginia Supreme Court to clarify the issue” because “it is logically difficult to see how the statute at issue in Bullock compelled the result in Bullock while the statute at issue in [Jefferson] compelled a different conclusion.”
It didn’t take long for the Virginia Supreme Court to conduct the review we felt was likely. On November 1st, the Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion in Brown v. Commonwealth, in which the Court overruled Bullock and held that mandatory minimum firearm charges can be served concurrently. More broadly, the Supreme Court held that in the absence of express language prohibiting sentences from being run concurrently, a trial court is always authorized to do so, even in cases involving mandatory minimum sentences.