If you have been accused or charged with committing a criminal offense it may be in your best interest to contact a criminal defense attorney in Virginia. Below are frequently asked questions on what you can expect from the criminal justice system after being charged. To learn more schedule a free consultation today.
What Can Someone Expect Throughout the Process of Their Case After Charges Are Filed?
It depends on whether they’re charged with either an infraction or a misdemeanor on the one hand, or a felony on the other. In a misdemeanor case or in a traffic infraction case, the matter is going to be set on the court’s docket for a first call or a first appearance in some jurisdictions or simply be set for a hearing in others.
Between the time a trial date is set and the day of trial, the attorney is going to be doing their work, their investigation, and conducting discovery, which is finding out about all the evidence that the commonwealth has that we can.
Ultimately there are going to be some discussions and negotiations about a plea agreement, often resulting in an offer. A client can expect, at the end of that process, that the lawyer is going to make a recommendation to them about whether they should accept the plea offer or try the case instead. If a trial is chosen, there will be a trial on that date or sometimes there will be a trial on a subsequent date.
In a felony case in Virginia, the matter will be set for a preliminary hearing. This is a hearing to determine whether there is probable cause for the charge to go forward. The Commonwealth will put on some, but usually not all of its evidence, in an effort to persuade the judge that there are enough incriminating facts for the case to go forward.
If the judge finds that there are, the case will then be transferred to a circuit court where it will be heard by a grand jury in a closed session. If the grand jury chooses to indict the accused, the accused will then appear before the circuit court judge and a date will be set for trial. In some jurisdictions the person is arraigned (enters a plea of guilty of not guilty) at the time the trial date is set.
What is Unique About Criminal Defense in Virginia?
Every state—every jurisdiction—is unique in the sense that it has different procedural requirements. They all have a slightly different way of doing things. So it’s important that you, of course, have someone who’s an experienced Virginia practitioner in order to navigate all of those things.
Perhaps the main thing to know about Virginia is that it is one of the toughest jurisdictions in the United States. It has some of the most severe penalties even for things that people wouldn’t suspect, such as reckless driving charges which may carry not only a loss of license, but perhaps even incarceration.
What’s unique to Virginia is, as a lawyer, you have to treat every case as though it is very serious because really every case in Virginia is very serious. There are potentially serious consequences to almost anything that a person can be charged with. And so, you don’t have the ability or the luxury either as a client or an attorney of treating any case as though it’s routine, of treating any case as though it’s not a big deal. They’re all a big deal in Virginia and they have to be treated with seriousness and thoroughness by someone who has experience and ability.