Being charged with a crime can be an intimidating experience, especially if you have never been involved in the legal system before. With this in mind, the following is some preliminary information on what you can expect from your case, to learn more call and schedule a free consultation with a Manassas criminal lawyer today.
After charges have been filed and the arrest process is completed, in the case of a misdemeanor, there will be a date set for trial, or in the case of a felony, a date set for a preliminary hearing or probable cause hearing. If a person has been denied bail by the magistrate, there will be the bond hearing in front of the General District Court judge.
If an individual is charged with a misdemeanor in Manassas, they can expect to have their first hearing in front of the General District Court judge (called an advisement or an arraignment), where they will be advised of their right to an attorney and where a court date will be set.
Once they come to the second court date, the defendant should anticipate that the case might be tried on that date, but in some cases matters are continued to a second date. The individual should be prepared and understand that there may well be a trial of the misdemeanor charge on that court date.
A felony charge has different procedural process than a misdemeanor charge. Felony charges begin in the General District Court, whose function it is to hold the preliminary hearing, or what is sometimes called the probable cause hearing, to determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to move forward to the Circuit Court for trial. A General District Court cannot try felony case.
The preliminary hearing does not involve a determination of guilt or innocence; it only involves the determination of whether there is sufficient probable cause for the charge. If the General District Court judge finds that there is, in fact, enough evidence for the matter to go to trial, or if for some tactical reason the defendant waives the preliminary hearing, then the matter will be sent to a hearing in the Circuit Court, where it will go in front of a Grand Jury. Once a Grand Jury returns an indictment, which it almost always does, the accused will appear in front of the judge, at which time the matter will be set for a trial or for a plea, if a plea agreement has been reached with the Commonwealth at that point.
What an individual can expect from a first court date will depend on the kind of charge they have and where they are in the process. For example, the first hearing for a person being held without bail then will likely be a bond hearing, where the judge makes a determination as to whether any bond will be required.
In other cases, an individual’s first hearing may be an advisement where they are told that they have a right to an attorney and then is given a court date. In other kinds of cases, the first court date may, in fact, be a trial date; these kinds of cases are most often less serious traffic cases.
Some things out of state people are unaware of or are surprised to find out about the Manassas justice system is just how seriously certain things are treated and how severe the penalties can be in some cases. For example, Virginia makes reckless speeding a crime that can go on a person’s criminal record, whereas most jurisdictions do not. In addition, larceny of goods valued at as little as $200 can constitute a felony in Virginia.
It is often easier to find yourself involved in what is considered a very serious crime in Virginia than it is in most other states. There are often misconceptions by people who are charged here who believe that their charge is not serious because it would not be serious in their home state. This is why individuals need to talk to local attorneys and get local help as soon as possible, to determine whether their matter really is serious. And to reiterate, almost every misdemeanor or felony charge in Manassas has the potential to be extremely serious.
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