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Prince William County Investigations and Arrests

Finding yourself being placed in handcuffs and charged with an offense is an experience that is often terrifying. You may wonder what your next best course of action might be, or even how you are going to stand up to the stigma people may place on you. With the help of an experienced attorney, you could better understand your options in Prince William County investigations and arrests.

What Rights People Have When Police Knock on Their Door

If police knock on a person’s door to ask questions, the most important right that a person has is the right to remain silent. A person does not have to incriminate themselves and they are not required to answer questions. The police have the same legal authority to knock on a person’s door and ask them questions as any solicitor would have.

If the person does not want to talk to the officer who knocks on their door, they have every right to close the door in their face. However, it is best for residents to be more polite and tell officers that they prefer not to answer their questions.

Additionally, people also have the right to have an attorney present with them before answering any questions. That might be enough to stop the police from continuing their questioning.

How an Individual Could Refuse to Give Permission to Enter to an Officer

Unless the police officer has a search or arrest warrant, it is not necessary to let them enter the house. The advisable thing to do in that situation is simply to tell the officer that they do not have permission to enter the premises and that they may not enter.

Why Refuse Entry Even if A Resident Has Done Nothing Wrong

It is tempting for people to want to explain something to the police, especially when they feel they have nothing to hide or when they have done nothing wrong. However, people should understand, especially those who have no contact with the criminal justice system, that the job of the police is not necessarily the best outcome for a resident nor is it to listen to all sides of the story. An officer’s job is to gather evidence of a crime they believe has occurred.

So, if the police arrive at a house thinking there may be involved in a crime or that the residents may have committed a crime, the officer’s objective is to gather evidence, not look out for the best interest of the resident. An individual who is investigated for a crime or who is accused of a crime has a variety of tools at their disposal, but all of those tools require that from the outset they preserve their rights to the highest possible degree.

How Indictments work in Prince William County Criminal Cases

An indictment in Prince William County is simply a finding by the grand jury that there is sufficient evidence for a case to go to trial. When the grand jury meets, the prosecutor and the police officer involved in the case demonstrate why they think there is enough evidence for a case to go to a trial. The grand jury then certifies that there is indeed enough evidence, and its members sign what is called a “true bill” that results in an indictment. Once there is an indictment in a criminal case, typically one day after, the attorneys appear for what is called “Perm day” in a Circuit Court to set all of the indictment cases for trial.

Circumstances Where a Person May Be Indicted Prior to Arrest

It is uncommon for someone to be indicted before being arrested, but there are ways that could happen. The most common is a direct indictment that usually will result after someone has been charged and the case was pending in General District Court, but the charge was dismissed for some reason. In that case, they will face a direct indictment in Circuit Court.

It is common in some cases in which additional charges are discovered in the course of an investigation, or there are several charges that could be filed at the beginning, but only one charge was filed in General District Court. Though, it is not uncommon for the prosecutor to indict directly on several additional charges. Because of that, a person could be facing indictment for those charges even though they have not been arrested for them yet.

What Happens in the Time Leading Up to an Arrest

If someone is indicted by the grand jury in Prince William County, they will be directed to appear for term date to set their case for trial. At the time an indictee appears, they will be formally arrested or served with the indictment and have bail set by a magistrate. In a case in which someone is indicted, but was not aware of that before term day, once their case goes to the court and the court sees that they are not present, they would issue a warrant for their arrest. Generally in cases in which someone is indicted without having been arrested, if they have an attorney, the prosecutor and the police will get in touch with the attorney and let them know the indictment has gone through, so that the person will know to appear for term day.

How a Person Might Know of an Impending Arrest

In most cases in which someone is working with an attorney, once a warrant is filed or an indictment is returned by the grand jury, the prosecutor and the police working on the case will inform the defense attorney that a warrant has been filed and an indictment has been secured. That way, the attorney could arrange for the individual to appear at term day or to turn themselves in if it is a different type of case. Someone who does not have an attorney could call the warden desk at the sheriff’s department in Prince William County and ask whether there are warrants for their arrest, but there is no procedure for alerting people other than making the arrest.

A Person’s Arrest Rights Explained

Before being arrested, people still have the right to have an attorney, although that changes after their charges are filed and they are formally arrested. The individual does not have to discuss the case without an attorney present, because they have the right against self-incrimination. Additionally, they cannot be interrogated in custody without having their Miranda rights read to them and followed.

The Arrest Process in Prince William County

Generally speaking, most arrests in Prince William County are conducted by the county police based on a warrant for arrest or behavior that is observed directly by an officer. After having observed the behavior or having an arrest warrant served, police will take the person into custody with handcuffs, place them in a police cruiser, and then take them to one of the district police stations in the county to go through the arrest process. In that process, and an arrested person will have their fingerprints and photographs taken and their criminal record will be looked into. And, there will be a search to see whether the person has any other type of outstanding warrant for their arrest.

After that initial process, the individual will be taken in front of the magistrate who will determine their bond status. The magistrate might either set a bond in many cases or deny one. In some cases, the magistrate is required to hold an individual without bond until they go in front of a judge of one of the Prince William County courts. If a magistrate declines to set bond, it will be reviewed by one of the judges, but a bond motion cannot be filed until the defendant has an attorney of record.

Who is Qualified to Make an Arrest in Prince William County

There are several towns and cities in Prince William County that have police departments, and of course, there is the state police, all of whom authorized to make an arrest within the county. In most cases, however, arrests are made by the Prince William County Police Department or the Sheriff.

Miranda Rights Explained

The Miranda right grew out of a US Supreme Court case, Miranda versus Arizona, in which an individual was arrested and interrogated without being informed of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination. The court ruled that police must inform arrested individuals of that right before questioning a person. It also stated that people must be told that anything they say or do can be held against them in court, that they have the right to have an attorney present when they are being questioned, and that if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them.

Police only have to inform a defendant of their Miranda rights before an in-custody interview. Before they are in custody, they are not required to inform the person of their right to remain silent. Or, if they are in custody, but not interrogated, the police are not required to inform them of their Miranda rights. In those situations, anything someone says can be used against them. Thus, at any time, they have the right to remain silent and they should exercise that right.

Common Misconceptions of Miranda Rights

The most common misconception about Miranda rights is probably that a police officer needs to read a person their Miranda rights anytime an individual is arrested. If someone is in custody and the police fail to read them their rights before interrogating them, the result is simply that the defendant could move to suppress what they said and keep the interrogation out of evidence at trial. The next most common misperception is that an arrest is invalid if someone is not read their rights.

The police are not required to inform someone of their rights at any time before interrogation.  In many cases, there is no need for the police to conduct an interrogation after an arrest, so it is unnecessary for them to read their right at that time either.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During the Arrest Process

The most common mistake that people should avoid during the arrest process is talking too much. There is a very good reason why people have the right to remain silent, and that is so they do not incriminate themselves. It is common for someone being arrested or investigated to think that either the police are on their side or that if they could somehow just explain their situation, they will be much better off. The fact is the police officer’s job is to charge someone with a crime and gather evidence about it.

Any discussion with the police officer prior to an arrest or during their investigation of a crime is simply adding to the evidence the police may use against the defendant. In reality, the most important thing to do when they are being investigated or arrested is to preserve their right to remain silent and to get an attorney who has experience in working with people in the local jurisdiction.

How Arrests Work if a Person Has First Been Indicted in Prince William County

If a person has been indicted in Prince William County, their case will be sent to term day at the Circuit Court. If the person knows they have been indicted, they could appeal on that day and have their case set for trial. Usually, the judge will instruct the magistrate to process the person and set a bond for them.

If the person has been arrested and is in court to be processed, they may be released the same day. Someone who is unaware of their need to appear at term day or does not appear will have a warrant issued for their arrest. Then, the police or the Prince William County Sheriff will likely execute the arrest warrant and bring them into court to have the court date set.

What Chances People have to Surrender

Anyone who knows they have been indicted can surrender themselves by appearing at term day. It is the best way to ensure that they have the opportunity to surrender and begin working with an attorney as soon as they know that they are facing an investigation and possible charges. The attorney is likely to contact the police leading the investigation and discuss the case with them. If an indictment is filed in the case, the attorney should be made aware as soon as possible so that they may arrange to have the person turn themselves in instead of possibly missing term day or having a warrant issued or being arrested at home or at work.

How Surrendering Could Help a Person’s Case

There are several ways in which a person turning themselves in might be helpful to their case. Most notably, a magistrate may set a lower bond or a personal recognizance bond. The magistrate will be aware that a person has arranged with the officer to turn themselves in, know what their court dates are, and are already working with an attorney. That gives the magistrate more reason to believe that they are planning to appear in court and are less likely to be a flight risk.

There are two things a magistrate or a judge has to consider when setting bond. The first is whether the arrested person is likely to appear in court. The second is whether they present a danger to the community. Both of these factors influence bonds. It is also helpful in any sentencing arguments or other arguments before the Circuit Court to be able to inform the judge that as soon as they were aware of the charges against them, they took all of the proper steps to get their counsel, and appear in court to address the charges on the court’s terms.

Contact Your Legal Representative

If you are facing charges and an investigation, a Prince William County investigation and arrest attorney could help you fight these charges. With an experienced attorney by your side, you could have a force who could advocate on your behalf and fight for a favorable outcome.

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