While no one wishes to be charged with a crime, people less so wish to be charged with a crime in a county they know nothing of. Out-of-state defendants in Prince William County could find themselves in a terrible predicament if they do not know what options the county offers defendants. Because of this, it is critical to work with an attorney who is familiar with local prosecutors and who could help you obtain a more ideal outcome.
The first and most important thing to do for someone who is out of state and charged with an offense in Prince William County is to consult an attorney in Prince William County to learn about how the procedures might be different from their home state and what they could do about making sure a court date is set. They should make sure to note when they need to appear and whether or not it is possible to waive their arraignment or even waive their appearance for their trial date.
In almost every case, anyone who is charged with a crime in Prince William County has to appear in court at some point in time. If they are able to work with an attorney, they may be able to set the date to make sure that it would be as little of an inconvenience as possible. For people who are in the armed services or who are hospitalized in another state, it may be possible to make arrangements with their attorney so that they would, hopefully, only have to appear for one court appearance.
In rare circumstances, it is possible for someone who learns that they were charged with an offense in Prince William County to either waive their appearance entirely or to have the warrant for their case quashed so that they could finish medical treatment or therapy out of the state, but only in limited circumstances.
In Virginia, there are two tiers of trial court. Most cases start in the general district court, and it is rare for cases to begin in the circuit court. The general district court does not have juries and does not have a court reporter. In cases in which the client is seeking a jury trial, their case would have to be resolved in circuit court.
Additionally, any decision made in the general district court could automatically be appealed, and someone facing a charge in the general district court or in the juvenile and domestic relations court in Prince William County has an automatic right to appeal that decision for a new trial in the circuit court. If someone appeals the final decision of one of the district courts, then they would have a new trial as if the decision had never been made by the general district court.
One common misperception people have in Prince William County is that certain offenses such as reckless driving or shoplifting are not criminal offenses, but in Virginia, a reckless driving charge is a criminal offense. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the same level of offense as a DWI. Similarly, a shoplifting offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and Prince William County does not have any automatic system for dismissing those charges.
Many judges in Prince William County are inclined to dismiss a case or deal differently with a case if someone completes traffic school, and in some situations, for people who have very good records, the judges may be willing to continue a case and allow someone to complete traffic school instead of paying a fine and losing points. Individuals who do not have an attorney do not have the same access to try to make an agreement with the prosecutor as they may in some other jurisdictions or in some states where an individual could speak with the prosecutor and even be informed carefully of their rights.
In Prince William County, an individual could speak with the prosecutor in some cases who may even make an offer regarding how they want to deal with the case. Taking that offer requires the individual to forego any rights they would have to a trial. The prosecutor will not discuss with them whether they are guilty or not guilty or whether they have enough evidence to find them guilty; they simply tell them if they are willing to negotiate.
The most important thing to do after being charged with a crime is to not talk about the facts of the case at all. Observe your right to remain silent. Whether with an officer or with others, it is best not to say anything about the facts of the case or to dispute the charges with the officer or magistrate. The next most important thing to do is to speak as soon as possible with an attorney to make sure that you understand the procedure and the rights that you need to protect and preserve. And, thirdly, you should begin an investigation of the case as soon as possible so that any evidence that needs to be preserved is being preserved immediately.
Out-of-state defendants in Prince William County may be surprised to find the degree of seriousness that prosecutors address cases. Depending on the severity of your case, you could be facing life-altering consequences. Because of this, it makes perfect sense to allow a defense attorney help. Experienced legal counsel could build a defense, negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf, and help you take proactive steps toward a favorable outcome. Reach out today.
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