Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Virginia?
If you’ve been accused of committing a criminal offense, it is natural for you to feel anxious and afraid. While it’s true that the law views the accused as innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, we all know that the court of public opinion is not quite so forgiving. Criminal accusations can follow a person around forever unless they are effectively squashed.
When charged, the government will notify the accused of the charges against them. It is an important and sacred tenet of our society that being accused of a crime does not mean you are guilty. You will still have your day in court, so you can hopefully set the record straight and clear your name.
Once charged, you may enter a plea in court of either guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
You are afforded many important rights under the United States Constitution. You have the right to an attorney, legal counsel will be provided if you cannot afford an attorney, and you can demand a jury trial. Of course, you may also opt to represent yourself in court, but this is not recommended for most criminal cases. Remember the old adage, which applies to everyone including lawyers: Those who represent themselves have a fool for a client.
Can You Be Charged with Multiple Criminal Offenses?
Some crimes are very closely linked, but have different elements the prosecutor must prove. One act may therefore support multiple charges. For instance, if one breaks into a house and steals something, one may be charged with breaking and entering and theft from that one incident.
Additionally, the accused may have committed other crimes in the act of committing the primary criminal offense. In such cases, the government will seek to charge the defendant for all crimes that occurred during the event.
What Are Your Constitutional Rights as a Defendant in a Criminal Case?
Your Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights play a key role in your legal defense.
The Fourth Amendment protects a defendant from unlawful searches and seizures. The government must obtain a warrant based upon ‘probable cause’ to conduct a search or seizure. An illegal search or seizure may result in evidence being thrown out in a criminal case.
The Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination and allows you to remain silent. Not only are you able to refuse to give a statement to the police about the charges, you do not need to testify in court to prove your innocence. Many people think they should testify to “prove” their innocence, which is not true and often not a good idea. The Fifth Amendment protects you from being required to testify or give any evidence, and requires that the prosecutor prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that your silence and refusal to testify cannot be considered as evidence against you.
The Sixth Amendment provides you with the right to a swift and speedy trial, legal representation, a trial before a jury of your peers, and the right to face your accusers in court.
The Eighth Amendment guarantees you the right to ‘reasonable’ bail and protects you from ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’
What Legal Rights Do Minors Have if Charged with a Criminal Offense in VA?
All of the Constitutional rights discussed apply to juveniles, but the process is slightly different. In Virginia, most charges against a juvenile will be brought in the local Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) District Court, but you cannot have a jury trial in this court. If the case is sent to a Circuit Court, then the case may be tried to a jury. Many juvenile cases, however, are resolved in the JDR court.
You need to consult a lawyer for legal advice if you have any questions or concerns about expunging the criminal records of a juvenile offender.
Do You Need to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
You are not required to hire a lawyer to represent you. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the government will appoint one to serve you. But, you have the right to hire an attorney of your choosing.
To ensure that your case is handled correctly from start to finish, you need to consult an attorney of your choosing early in the process. The sooner an experienced lawyer can take a look at your case, the more time they will have to build a solid defense.
What is the Role of the Prosecutor?
The prosecutor represents the state or the federal government. The prosecution’s job is to seek justice. Your defense attorney’s job is not only to review the evidence and give you sound legal advice, but to remind the prosecutor their main goal is supposed to be to seek justice, not revenge.
State and federal prosecutors are experienced legal professionals and should not be underestimated. For this, and so many other reasons, it is advisable not to represent yourself in court.
Hiring an experienced criminal attorney to represent you is the best way to challenge the prosecution’s accusations. And, if it comes down to it, an experienced criminal attorney knows how to negotiate a favorable plea bargain with the prosecutor.
Schedule a Case Evaluation with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today
To ensure that your criminal case reaches the most satisfactory conclusion possible, I advise you to seek the legal guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Just because you have been accused of a crime does not mean that you must be found guilty and sent to jail. Contact an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible to give them the time needed to challenge these charges and potentially reduce the penalties if found guilty.
I have been a police officer, a prosecutor and defense attorney, and have decades of experience in investigating accusations and representing clients accused of breaking the law. To schedule a consultation, please call (540) 384-4585.