Prince William County criminal courts are not to be understated in seriousness. If you or a loved one was charged with a crime, it is likely that you or they are to face a judge in one of the many courtrooms in the county. This is often exceptionally daunting, but it does not have to be. With the help of a seasoned attorney, you could avoid some of the pitfalls that come with courtroom inexperience and have a legal representative by your side during these trying times.
The Prince William County criminal court system in Virginia has several levels of courts, though most cases start in either the general district court or the juvenile and domestic relations district court. All traffic cases and misdemeanors typically start in a district court. Even felonies typically start in the general district court, but a felony trial has to be held in the circuit court.
Circuit court is the higher court in Prince William County. It is what people typically think of as a trial court. The general courts are a lower court and what people may typically think of as a traffic court, although that is not overly accurate in Virginia and in Prince William County. All cases could be heard in the general district court or in the juvenile and domestic relations court, whereas a variety of criminal cases could be heard in the general domestic relations court and the juvenile court. But not all types of cases could be disposed of in the district court.
The general district court does not have jury trials and typically does not have a court reporter. Someone who wants to have a jury trial or someone who is charged with a case in which a jury is required would have to have their case removed from the general district court or the juvenile and domestic relations court. That case would have to be heard in the circuit court.
Typical felony cases, for example, start in the general district court and have a preliminary hearing in the general district court where the general district court judge listens to the evidence to determine whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial. After that hearing, the judge would order the case to be sent to a grand jury and to go to the circuit court. The trail for a felony case and any other pretrial motions or motions to suppress would be heard in the circuit court.
Sometimes it gets into the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Virginia also has multiple tiers of courts. In addition to the district courts and the circuit courts, Virginia has a Court of Appeals and a Supreme Court. Both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals are located in Richmond, Virginia. There are hearings of each court that are held in other places, but the courthouse in Manassas does not have hearings for the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Virginia.
People typically have a right to petition for an appeal from the circuit court in Virginia in criminal cases. If someone wants to appeal their decision from the circuit court in Prince William County, they would appeal that usually to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court of Virginia. When someone wants to appeal the decision from a criminal case in the circuit court of Prince William County, they would note their appeal with the circuit court and with the Court of Appeals in Richmond. Then, they would petition the Court of Appeals to hear their appeal.
If, in some instances, an appeal was denied, people seeking an appeal could ask the Supreme Court to review their case. However, in some instances, such a step may not be necessary, and the Court of Appeals would grant a petition for appeal, hear an appeal, and ask for a new trial to be had. That would send the case back to the circuit court in Manassas for a new trial.
The most important things people should know about the Prince William County court system is that it is a local court, that decisions could be appealed from the court, and that things always work more smoothly if one works with an attorney who has a good working knowledge of the local rules and has experience working in Prince William County criminal trials.
Like all local courts, the courts in Prince William County want things to be done in a particular way. The more familiar the attorney handling a case is with the procedure and the requests/motions that the judges and clerks are comfortable with and able to help facilitate, the easier it could be for that attorney to represent the interests of an alleged offender.
What people should know about how to behave in court in Prince William County, especially in today’s day and age, is that they could bring phones into the courthouse, but they may not be on a phone while they are in court. Cell phones or handheld electronics would almost certainly be confiscated if used in court.
Many judges even frown on someone bringing any type of reading material into court. Many judges feel that while an individual is in court, they should have their attention devoted to the procedures happening in court and there should be nothing to distract them from those procedures. Many judges would prefer that people observe the proceedings going on, even if those proceedings have to do with someone else’s case and not theirs.
It is important that people behave with the proper decorum in court, not speak out of turn, not interrupt proceedings that are going on, and maintain a respectful silence when they do not have business in front of the court. It is also important, especially in Prince William County, to keep a reasonable dress code. While most courts do not have a formal dress code, people are expected to be dressed in a certain way. It is not well-publicized, but in circuit court, people would not be admitted to court if they are wearing shorts, if they do not have a shirt tucked in, or if they are wearing sandals or flip flops.
The general district court may have some different rules. However, it is best to play it safe and dress according to the dress code of the circuit court. It is best in Prince William County to wear a shirt with a collar, tuck the shirt in, wear shoes that have closed toes, and wear long pants to avoid any embarrassment or comment from the court.
Some mistakes for people to avoid when going to court involves bringing anything with them into court that they are not allowed, such as a telephone. It is important not to bring a knife, mace, or any other type of weapon into a courthouse.
It is important not to bring any other type of contraband into a courthouse. It is also important for people to avoid anything in court that could draw attention to them or cause any of the deputies to have any trouble.
While there are many decisions made by legal officials in Prince William County courts, one decision does rest on your shoulders. The choice as to let an experienced legal representative help you through court is yours to make. However, if you elect to work with an attorney, there are numerous benefits that could apply to you. Attorneys with working experience in these courts could help present your case to the prosecution, work with the judges and state attorneys to help you obtain a favorable outcome, and stand by you during these hard times. Do not wait, reach out to an attorney today.
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